Mel Ponder’s soon-to-be final decision not to pursue re-election to the District 4 state representative’s seat appears to be drawing interest from several quarters.
Late on the same day Ponder, R-Destin, announced that he would likely forgo seeking re-election in 2020 and instead vie for the District 5 Okaloosa County Commission seat, Niceville businessman Jonathan Tallman said that if Ponder follows through he will drop out of the commission race and seek state office.
“I realize that getting into a race and then changing to another doesn’t always look good from a political perspective, but at the end of the day I really don’t care about optics. I care about making my hometown (Okaloosa County) a better place,” Tallman said in an email.
Tallman will join retired Okaloosa County Judge T. Patterson Maney as an early entrant in the race for the state House. He officially withdrew his name Wednesday from the list of District 5 County Commission candidates.
And Sandra Atkinson, the county’s Republican State Committeewoman, announced Wednesday that she wasn’t going to allow the state representative’s race to be an all male affair. Wednesday afternoon, she actually became the first candidate to pre-file to run for Ponder's seat.
Tallman and Atkinson are both small business owners. Tallman heads Tallman Group LLC and Atkinson runs Stress Busters Massage Therapy in Fort Walton Beach.
Tallman ran against Ponder for the District 4 House seat in 2016 and finished second in the voting. He said the two former rivals have set aside any differences they might have had three years ago to “focus on what is best for our area.”
Atkinson, an Army veteran, will have completed her second four-year term as Republican State Committeewoman when the House election is held in 2020. She was the county chairwoman of the Trump 2016 election campaign.
Ponder is expected on Friday to announce his intention to run for the County Commission seat being vacated by Kelly Windes, who is stepping down after eight years in office.