Business Voice, the political arm of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, announced today it is supporting the three incumbents in this fall’s city of Lakeland elections over their challengers. After interviewing candidates on Wednesday, the organization’s members voted to endorse:

  • Mayor Bill Mutz over Saga Stevin
  • Commissioner Sara Roberts McCarley over Allyson Lewis
  • Commissioner Mike Musick over Shandale Terrell

In its announcement, Business Voice described itself as “an endorsement board for those individuals who personify the objectives of the business community.” The organization is made up of around 20 Chamber members who pay an extra $150 or more above their Chamber dues to belong to the political arm.

Stevin announced at the Chamber of Commerce Political Hob Nob on Wednesday evening that she has received the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police.

The nonpartisan elections take place on Nov. 2. In addition to the three races, the ballot includes two proposed changes to the Lakeland City Charter.

Mayor candidates:

City Commission Southeast District candidates:

City Commission Southwest District candidates:

Founded in 2000, Business Voice endorsements have been considered a consensus choice of local business owners.

In some recent elections, though, another political action committee called Lakeland First, which is aligned with the Lakeland Economic Development Council, has made its influence felt in Lakeland city elections. Typically, Lakeland First and Business Voice have endorsed the same candidates, but they diverged in 2019, with Business Voice endorsing Carole Philipson and Lakeland First providing more than $60,000 in funding to City Commission candidate Chad McLeod, who ultimately won.

This year, Lakeland First appears to be sitting out the election. The organization spent almost all of its funds in the 2019 election and has added little to its treasury since, according to state records.

New local political action committees have emerged this year, including Coalition for a Stronger Lakeland, which is supporting McCarley, and 1885 Forward, which posted a Facebook ad supporting the re-election of Commissioner Stephanie Madden before she found herself without an opponent in this year’s election, thereby winning.

It will be next Friday before we’ll know how much the candidates raised in September, who gave it and how it was spent.

As of the end of August, Mutz had raised $3,625 from 14 donors, most of them family members. Stevin had raised $21,174 from 61 donors, including a $10,000 loan from herself.

Check searchable databases of donations to Lakeland candidates at

Stevin started raising funds in May, when she had been planning to run for City Commission. Fund-raising accelerated in August, the month she announced she was switching to the mayor’s race.

Mutz has been slower to launch a major fund-raising drive. He announced his “first campaign fundraiser” this week on Facebook. The host committee named in his announcement includes 48 couples and individuals, among them people affiliated with both Business Voice and Lakeland First.

Among the candidates for commission, as of the end of August:

  • Musick (SE District) had raised $7,175 from 18 donors.
  • Terrell (SE District) had raised $7,023 from 65 donors.
  • Lewis (SW District) had raised $5,670 from 39 donors.
  • McCarley (SW District) had raised $3,500 from 4 donors.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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