by Joe Courter
With the unexpected resignation announcement of At-Large City Commissioner Gail Johnson a couple months ago, the need for a special election has happened. That election will be Tuesday, Nov. 16, with early voting November 12-14. It is open to all City of Gainesville registered voters.
There are five candidates who have registered for the election. The most well-known and strongest in the field is former Mayor and City Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, who served office in the City from 1987 to 1990, and then was a County Commissioner from 2002 to 2006. She has been very active in Democratic party politics over the past decades. She is also the candidate Gail Johnson has endorsed to carry on her agenda, which she cut short for various personal reasons just months after having been reelected in 2020.
The second strongest candidate is political newcomer Matt Howland, who already has an active grassroots campaign in full swing. He is a former Gainesville Middle School teacher who stepped away from teaching and became active in the non-profit sector, currently running a youth fitness program. From his website: “… (we) should focus on actionable issues that are inclusive and sustainable, such as renewable energy and waste collection, public transportation and safe streets, supporting small businesses and cutting red tape.”
The other three candidates have not really begun campaigning. Scherwin Henry was a commissioner from 2006 to 2012 and is a retired food scientist. Patrick Ingle (no relation to James) is retired from the software industry and currently drives for Uber and Lyft. And Gabe Kaimowitz is a former lawyer and frequently comments and complains at Commission meetings.
One for sure candidate forum will be Saturday, Oct. 23, by the League of Women Voters at 1pm, and will be available then and after on Zoom from the LWV Facebook page. If no candidate gets 50 percent +1 there will be a runoff in December (too bad we don’t use rank choice voting). Your vote counts a lot here, because it will likely be a low turnout election, with this race the only one on the ballot. More next month.