The August 23 elections … No complacency!

by Joe Courter

You’ve heard this before, but it’s worth reminding yourself of the power of your vote. There is POWER in your vote. We need that power more than ever. Not just in November, but in August. Our August elections will not only shape the field but will in many cases be the deciding factor for many of our local seats.

While the City Commission districts have not been officially finalized, we are starting to become familiar with many of the folks running and who they could represent. With the Mayor’s race and three Commission seats on the ballot, an unprecedented majority swing is possible, shaping the voice and direction of our city.

In the City Commission elections, voters will be able to vote for candidates in District 2, District 3, and District 4. District 2 may see several candidates on the ballot, depending on how the final maps land, however, currently I am impressed with James Ingle who has declared for that seat. James is a union president, electrician, and community activist. His slogan is “We need a pair of work boots on the city commission,” and I couldn’t agree more. District 3 currently has four candidates declaring, but look for many changes coming in that race come mid-June and with finalized maps, therefore it’s too soon to even speculate a stand out. District 4 is an interesting race with currently two candidates declaring. However, that will change with the new maps. Bryan Eastman is a candidate for District 4 currently, and in my opinion is not a bad replacement for Hayes-Santos. Keep an eye on all these races as we learn more about district finalization and as we come closer to the June qualifying deadline. 

Why the delay in finalized district lines? 

From Harvey Ward: “The question most folks have is why it took so long, and that is more than fair to ask. The city’s tradition has been that unlike other local governments, we draw our district maps to coincide as much as possible with the precinct maps drawn by the Supervisor of Elections (SOE) and approved by the county commission. The SOE (rightly) didn’t draw those precincts until the legislature finished its state house and senate maps, which didn’t happen until the end of the legislative session. The legislative maps slice our city up in new, creative, and (I believe) punitive ways, but they are what they are.”

There are five folks in the Mayor’s race presently. This race will be exciting to watch as it already has a vastly wide field. Currently I lean toward Harvey Ward, as he is a known entity and seems to be motivated to continue working with the community voices he has developed relationships with during his time as District 2 Commissioner. However, I remain concerned about the current days’ city growth policies and want to hear more from Harvey on his vision for future city development and planning.

Alachua County School Board will also have four seats on the ballot to vote on. With the current media hysteria and state attention over education issues, these races will be more contentious than ever before. We will need to do our research and ensure we are supporting the best candidates. Currently I support Tina Certain (Incumbent D1), Diyonne McGraw (D2), Dr. Sarah Rockwell (D3) and Kay Abbott (D5). This could change, however, depending on the final declarations.

The Alachua County Commission has two seats on the ballot. I decisively can declare support for Ken Cornell (Incumbent D4) and Marihelen Wheeler (Incumbent D2). They both are fantastic commissioners and our community would be worse off without them. 

Branching out to Florida State House and Senate races, there is a lot of work to be done and no clear strong early Democratic campaigns that signal a great chance to fight the deluge of early Republican money we see coming in. Strongly supported and well-funded Democratic candidates will be needed in order to have any chance of turning those seats blue, especially with our new highly gerrymandered districts. Pay close attention to these races; sign up to volunteer for the Democratic candidate campaigns; donate funds and assist on getting out the vote canvassing.

Lastly, in all of these races beware of push polling, dark money, bogus smear campaigns, and false promise advertising. This will be a combative election cycle. We need to come together and have each other’s blue backs. It will take every single blue vote there is to make a true difference as we fight back against the Republican fascism that is devouring our state and encroaching on our little blue dot heaven.

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