by Joe Courter
CORRECTION/EDITORS’ NOTE: Please note that the July/August edition misstates Gary Gordon’s position regarding single family zoning. He supports single family zoning and is against the proposal that would change that. A missing word—”proposal”—in the original report creates the confusion. Again, he is against the exclusionary zoning proposal and supports single family zoning as we have it now. Sorry for the confusion. It has been corrected in the article below.
The upcoming primary election on Aug. 23 will see the Democrats and Republicans narrowing their candidates down for the November midterm election races.
In Alachua County the nonpartisan mayor, city commission, and school board races will be on the ballot as well as the circuit court judges race, with candidates trying to achieve that magical 50% + 1 in order to win their seats. However, if no candidate achieves that number, the seat will then be on the November midterm ballot for a runoff decision.
This is already an important election cycle with the future of Florida in play. For the first time, the city elections will be included with other August races and voting, making August voting even more important for Gainesville.
Florida is a closed primary election state, which means that only voters registered with a political party can vote in that party’s primary contests on the ballot.
However, all registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, may vote in nonpartisan races, such as Alachua County School Board, city races, and judicial contests. All voters who live within Gainesville’s city limits can vote in Gainesville mayoral and in city commission district races for the candidate in their district.
As a reminder, voters can update their party affiliation any time. However, Florida law requires that they do so at least 29 days prior to a primary election to vote in that party’s primary contests. That date is July 25, which is also the last date to register to vote (i.e., to support Fried, Cornell, or Wheeler, you need to be a Dem).
Early voting is Saturday, Aug. 13, through Saturday, Aug. 20, from 9am to 6pm.
You can request a vote-by-mail ballot by calling or visiting the website of the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections. There are new rules for vote-by-mail ballot collections and verification, so familiarize yourself with those policies if using that method. More voting info is at votealachua.com.
For more candidate information we encourage you to watch or attend candidate information forums, attend candidate meet and greets, research candidates and their platforms, or talk to friends and associates for their opinions.
Page 11 contains a brief voting guide – our opinion on races and candidates – you can take with you when you vote. Some races are harder to give a definite opinion on, so for those, we state who we believe should be the front runner(s). Our suggestions:
Florida House Representative District 8:
Brandon Peters and Olysha Magruder
We feel both candidates are good people, and Magruder has a lot of city support, but Peters has more reach out into exterior of the sprawling District 8. This would give Peters a much better chance of beating Republican Chuck Clemons, and that needs to be the overall goal.
Unfortunately, Republican dark money dirty tricks marred Magruder’s last primary race, with a unsanctioned mailer bashing her opponent Kayser Enneking. That weakened Enneking’s image for November. Many would have liked for those primary games to have been denounced by Magruder sooner, as historically, a united Democratic Party gives a stronger chance in November.
Democrats need to be on the lookout for similar things in this race and remain united, so either candidate will get the best shot at unseating Clemons.
8th Circuit Court Judge:
AuBroncee Martin and Dan Weisman
Martin currently works in the Public Defender’s office and is a previous adjunct professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law where he taught aspiring lawyers the art of trial advocacy. Weisman is a former prosecutor, current private defense attorney, and community activist tackling social justice issues. Both would be great on the bench, and it is important that one of them make it into the probable runoff.
Gainesville Mayoral Race:
Harvey Ward and Gary Gordon
There are a total of nine people running in this race, and with that crowded of a field, there will undoubtedly be a runoff in November. We do not believe that many of these candidates will get to double digits, as it seems a large portion are running vanity-style campaigns. Keeping that in mind, we are choosing to highlight three of the more serious candidates, with the two Democrats being our top choices.
While the top two have some large policy and perspective differences between them, both want what is best for Gainesville and its residents. Ward has supported some of the new urbanist initiatives that have come before the commission in the past few years, which many feel has contributed to the rapid city build up. Ward is a good-hearted, progressive person, and is known for being very open and reachable, which is a good quality in an elected official. Ward also championed the city’s Heirs Property work, which is allowing folks to claim back homes and property lost to their families long ago.
Gordon was a former city commissioner and mayor-commissioner from 1983 to 1986. Gordon was engaged in working in and around governmental and civic entities during his time in California, before moving back to Gainesville where he grew up. He is strongly supportive of single-family zoning retention and increased citizen input regarding development issues, not letting developers call the tune.
Also in the mayoral race is former, fired head of Gainesville Regional Utilities Ed Bielarski, who declared his run for mayor the day after he was fired. Bielarski has experience in finance, but none in governing. Bielarski is a bit bombastic at times, bringing into question his ability to maintain emotional order on the dais.
Gainesville City Commission District 2:
There are four candidates running for the District 2 seat, and while there are no major disqualifications for any of the candidates running, Ingle is a candidate with heart and a real motivation to lead. Ingle is a local electrician and union president. Ingle is running because he wants a voice on the commission from a working-class background, someone with lived experiences who knows the challenges blue collar families face in Gainesville. That is something we can get behind.
Gainesville City Commission District 3:
Willits is a local organizer and political activist with a passion for affordable housing advocacy. If elected, Willits wants to work on housing, infrastructure, and options to making streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Gainesville City Commission District 4:
Eastman is a Gainesville business owner and former campaign manager who has served on many city boards, including currently on the board of Grace Marketplace. Eastman has a passion for renewable resources and hopes to carry that passion with him into his work if elected, seeing Gainesville grow while preserving our beautiful environment and unique character.
There is a separate article on the Alachua County School Board races on page 10, and clear choices are highlighted, as well as talk about the money flowing in from Tallahassee trying to shape our board to the governor’s will.
Get out and meet all of these candidates, ask your own questions, and most importantly, be sure to get out and vote on August 23.