Somewhere between raising money, signing a lease for an independent living center for persons with developmental disabilities and hosting a party for newly elected Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Allison Tant has found time to run for office.
The former chair of the Florida Democratic Party who has assisted dozens of other candidates in their bid for public office said she will run for the District 9 House seat in 2020 currently held by Tallahassee attorney Loranne Ausley.
“I’m going to get the paperwork today and fill it out over the next day or two,” Tant told the Tallahassee Democrat on Thursday. “It’s just a matter of putting the application in.”
That would make Tant the first and so far only person to declare for the District 9 seat.
“Allison Tant is the definite front-runner for the seat. The district is solidly Democratic, it backed all five Dems this year and hasn’t been close since 2008,” said Matt Isbell, a liberal political consultant. “The primary would really be the main attraction but Allison is the front-runner there as well.”
A former lobbyist, political fundraiser and community activist, Tant, 58, chaired the state Democratic Party from 2013 to 2016. She stepped down after the 2016 elections rather than run for another term as chair and created the statewide LEAD task force to figure out what went wrong in Florida.
It’s been widely speculated for months that Tant would run for the seat, which Ausley is giving up to run for the state Senate seat being vacated by fellow Democrat Bill Montford, who is term-limited in 2020.
Tant said she wasn’t considering running for office until rumors started circulating a year ago that Montford was being approached to run for mayor and high school students descended on the Legislature demanding changes to the state’s gun laws after the Parkland shooting.
Once things got sorted, Montford decided not to run for mayor, and Ausley filed to run for his seat in 2020. And that got Tant thinking long and hard about running herself, even while hosting fundraisers for other candidates, including former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who narrowly lost the governorship to Ron DeSantis.
“My reason is we need a voice for the people who don’t have one,” said Tant, who is a longtime advocate for people with disabilities and a board member of the Children’s Home Society.
She and her husband, Tallahassee trial attorney Barry Richard, are raising a son with developmental disabilities who is now a young adult. Recognizing a need for specialized housing for people like their son, Tant has launched a campaign to build a planned housing development for adults with disabilities.
Tant started the non-profit Independence Landing Inc., raised thousands of dollars to qualify for state funding and applied for a grant to help build the facility. She also recently signed a 60-year lease with the city of Tallahassee on Monday for city property in SouthWood that had been reserved for a regional park. Independence Landing will pay $10 a year for the 20-acre site.
So far, the organization has raised about $350,000 for the project and won a $25,000 grant from the USA TODAY NETWORK.