Veteran Tallahassee shoeshiner files for gubernatorial run

By Troy Kinsey, Capitol Bureau Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, May 19, 2017, 8:22 PM EDT

Florida's 2018 gubernatorial contest is decidedly underway, with candidates on both sides of the aisle raising millions of dollars and crisscrossing the state in their bids to succeed Gov. Rick Scott.

Running up the middle, however, is an unassuming entrant who's been walking the Capitol's halls of power longer than any of his opponents: Tony Knox, a veteran shoeshiner about to mark his 30th year servicing the footwear of governors, legislative leaders and lobbyists.

  • Knox filed to run as an NPA candidate
  • Knox argues he's learned through exposure to lawmakers
  • Plans to travel the state shining shoes at TV stations

Knox filed to run for governor as a no party affiliation candidate last week. With no party, no political experience and no campaign funds - not yet, anyway - he would appear to be an underdog, multiple times over.

However, over the course of thousands of shoe shines, he argues he's learned more about state government than anyone else in the race, and he has a campaign platform he predicts will resonate with voters.

"As Governor Knox (would) say, 'I'm going to roll up my sleeves and teach you how to work,'" Knox said, in a riff on Scott's 'let's get to work' slogan. "I have a vision for the state that, number one, you've got to go to work. And the way you go to work is you shut down anything free for able-bodied people."

If that sounds like a contentious policy prescription, Knox says he's confident he can get it done through his relationships with top lawmakers.

"Bill Galvano!" Knox exclaimed, referring to the incoming state Senate president. "See, he loves a shoe shine. I've been shining his shoes ever since he's been a member."

To aid the dialogue, Knox is proposing retrofitting the governor's office with a permanent shoe shine stand should he win the election.

"I'll have a stand for my speaker and my president of the Senate and all of those who want to come visit," Knox said. "I'll have that available, and we can talk and shine the shoes, I can feel them. Their toes jump when I make 'em mad or whatever, you know, you can feel the attitude. But then, when we leave, we've got an understanding."

As for the people he'd hire to help run the nation's third-largest state, Knox says he's largely figured that out, too.

"When I get elected, I'm going to walk through the Capitol and hand-pick my team," he said. "I've already seen my team."

But to govern, Knox will have to wage a winning campaign. He plans to spend the rest of this year traveling the state, offering shoe shines at television stations and newspaper offices where, he hopes, he can rack up some earned media.

Knox says his campaign motto couldn't be simpler - or more fitting.

"Let's make the state shine again!" he proclaimed.