by Joe Courter
March 11 will be the City of Gainesville elections. There are two single-member district races, and one at-large race. In District 2 and District 3, primarily northwest and southwest areas of the city respectively, the two incumbents are strong candidates. Republican Todd Chase has two opponents in District 2, Cheri Brodeur and Sheryl Eddie. Each are, while minimally funded, good people that could offer a lot to the position. They each face an uphill climb against Chase, and Brodeur is a straight-talking woman of broad experience, and might be the better of the two on the job. But I can’t grasp her reason to stay a registered Republican (she switched from life long Democrat in 1996 after Bill Clinton lied under oath), so I have to say vote for the positive attitude Democrat in the race, Sheryl Eddie.
District 3 has Susan Bottcher, running for re-election against Craig Carter, a Republican owner of a golf cart company. We strongly endorse Susan Bottcher to be retained on the Commission. She is smart and clear thinking, and if you live in her district, or if you want to plug into her campaign, please do.
The At-Large race is a doozy and one that has created a real, though hopefully temporary, split within the liberal-progressive-environmental community. Both Annie Orlando and Helen Warren are known to many and are well liked Democrats. Both have been very active in Gainesville and Alachua County. Both are sincerely running to make and keep good things happening in Gainesville.
That said, while Helen has a fairly mainstream ‘’keep going the way we are going but do it better” approach, Annie is more an insurgent who sees the way the Biomass plant decision and the Solar Feed-in Tariff program were handled as quite flawed, and is ready to put herself into the process directly as a Commissioner. Helen has endorsements from the North Central Florida Central Labor Council, the Human Rights Campaign of North Central Florida, the Stonewall Democrats, Equality Florida, and the Gainesville Citizens for Alternative Transportation. Annie is endorsed by Fraternal Order of Police, the Firefighters Union, the Realtors Association, the Home Builders Association, and the Sierra Club.
That we have two women of this caliber running for the City Commission is a testament to our City, and either one will do a solid job in keeping us moving in a progressive direction. Visit either of their websites, and you find an active and engaged citizen involved in their community. That said, the fact that Annie, seen as someone outside the mainstream Democratic power-base in Gainesville, has attracted a wide base of support across the political spectrum has a lot of folks uneasy about her campaign. While this is uncomfortable for some, it is also quite logical, and looked at objectively, as not necessarily a bad thing. That certain people or groups are supporting her does not make Annie one of them, or a person who is going to do their bidding. She is a tough, independent person. And frankly, so is Helen. I know them both pretty well, and have for years.
I like that Annie is willing to challenge GRU to do better, and to question the huge proposed development east of Gainesville called Plum Creek. I am uncomfortable with the fact that what’s motivated her to run stems in part from Solar program, which she is in process of suing the City and GRU over. I love that with Helen we would get a person of exceptional character and experience, and a strong representative from the LGBT community. Electoral campaigns can be pretty bad when it comes to gotcha points and hyperbole, and even character attacks.
Fear-mongering I have always hated, and supporters of both sides have been engaging in it, unfortunately, but there are major issues facing the City and Alachua County that people care deeply about.
I am way out of my comfort zone here, and what I say next will please some and displease others.
I think that, despite the environmental ab- solutists who have been so publicly single-issue bashing of the City Commission for years over the biomass plant issue to a grating degree, and of whom most are supporting Annie Orlando, Annie is not them; she is her own person, this is about more than biomass, and I am willing to look past that crew and say she may be the better candidate for this time and situation. This Commission has wasted a lot of time on expensive studies and a “we know best” attitude.
If Helen wins, I will be equally happy; but with apologies to her and my friends who are her supporters, for this race, I say vote Annie Orlando.