Gainesville’s city elections are on March 14th in which At-Large 2, District-2, and District-3 commissioners will be elected.
These elections have a low turnout. The last three comparable elections had ~15% turnout. Hell, Commissioner Warren won her run off by 128 votes in 2014. In the same year, Commissioner Carter won with 180 votes. These elections have such low turnout that individual voters and their social networks can easily sway an election. All the more reason for you to go out and vote.
For the upcoming city elections I recommend:
- Jenn Powell for AL-2
- Harvey Ward for D-2
- David Arreola for D-3
You have to live in the district to vote for Ward and Arreola but anyone in the City can vote for Powell. Here’s an easy voter guide you can take to the polls with you.
Vote-by-mail ballots are already out and early voting is from Monday, March 6th through Saturday, March 11. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 9 AM – 5 PM. Tuesday and Thursday from 10 AM – 6 PM at the Supervisor of Elections Office, the Millhopper Branch Library, and the Cone Park Library. Election day voting is on Tuesday, March 14th from 7AM – 7PM. You can find your voting location here.
At Large Two:
Gainesville is a progressive town and deserves progressive leaders. Helen Warren was elected on razor thin margins in 2014 against Annie Orlando. A major distinguishing factor between Orlando and Warren surrounded the biomass plant. Different camps flocked to each of these candidates with most conservative voices and some progressives surrounding Orlando in an odd coalition. Orlando had the support of the Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Club. The AFL-CIO and Equality Florida were firmly behind Warren in 2014.
Warren as a commissioner has been a disappointment. She’s a great person who has the potential to be a great commissioner; but has currently fallen short. What motions has she made to champion progressive causes? What plans has she rolled out to address inequality? Homelessness? Discrimination? After thee years on the commission what accomplishments can she point to? Whatever she has done has earned her the support of the Chamber of Commerce and lost her the support of the AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club.
Jenn Powell has very little experience as a politician. She was a delegate from Alachua County for Bernie Sanders to the Democratic National Convention. She was a pivotal member of the “Bern Unit” that brought Sanders to Gainesville in 2016. Her coalition is made up of Bernie supporters, former Warren supporters, environmentalists, union activists, and most of the progressives that supported Orlando in 2014.
I’ve heard a lot of criticisms of Powell being too new, unrefined, and unready. Oddly enough these are similar criticisms made of Warren in 2014. Powell is a true working-class person who will bring this needed perspective to the commission. Please lookout for classism when you hear people talking about Powell’s ability to serve on the commission. I’ve had to call out more than a few people for their comments. (side note: you probably shouldn’t joke about a person’s class to a labor rights activist)
I’ve talked to some people who are staying out of this race because they don’t think Powell can win, but a few factors point otherwise. A lot of Warren’s 2014 coalition feels isolated by her and will either stay home or vote for Powell. Powell also has a network of sporadic voters who will cast their first City ballot this March. There is also likely to be a higher turnout due to the heightened political environment. When elections are decided by such few votes these changes can equal a win for Powell.
I’m supporting Powell for At-Large 2 because she’ll be a strong, consistent voice for working people in Gainesville
D-2 is the most conservative district in Gainesville. Of course, by most conservative I mean it’s 51% Democrat and 26% Republican. This seat is being vacated by soon to be former commissioner Todd Chase who is termed out. Chase has been a consistent detractor against progressive causes on the commission. This seat has been occupied by a Republican ever since then D-2 Commissioner Lauren Poe lost in 2011 by ~400 votes.
There are three people running in this election so there’s a chance that it will go to a run off on April 11th as a candidate needs 50% plus 1 to win outright.
Harvey Ward is a progressive through and through. Even before he was running for office he was a common sight at progressive events. He never showed up for face time with voters or for a quote in the media but to be part of the movement. He’s tabled for the Alachua County Labor Coalition, gathered signatures for a living wage, and lent his voice and time lobbying for progressive causes. In short, Harvey Ward is one of our own and has earned your vote.
Perry Clawson is a Republican who has been endorsed by Commissioner Chase. He’s been very reasonable in all the interactions I’ve had with him. I’d even go as far as to say that his politics are to the left of Chase and he’d likely be a Carter style Republican. What makes him unelectable is his violent past. In ’92 he was picked up for Battery/Theft in Orange County, in ’03 for Batter/Domestic Violence in Seminole County, and in ’10 for stabbing a man in the stomach in South Carolina.
The most disturbing to me is the domestic violence case in which the police officer wrote:
At some point she fell out of the bed onto the floor. When asked, Mr. Clawson denied ever touching his wife. Mrs. Clawson suffered a bruise to her bottom lip and an abrasion to her left knee.
When Deputy Gamber and I arrived on scene, Mrs. Clawson became was visibly upset declaring nothing was wrong and that her husband did nothing to her. Mr. Clawson advised that it was his wife who set off the alarm signaling violence within the home.
He further advised that at no time did he touch his wife, but could not answer as to how she received the bruises.
The 2010 case in South Carolina was dismissed because of a mistrial but I believe a civil case is still ongoing. I’ve yet to hear him respond to this in its totality, only the domestic violence incident. In that instance he points out that it was investigated by multiple agencies, he was cleared of any wrong doing, and that he was able to keep his top secret military clearance. This is still highly concerning and should give everyone pause.
Sheryl Eddie is running for the second time in this district. She’s a solid candidate with good politics. She’d definitely be an important added voice to the mostly boys’ club that is the City Commission. The one qualm I have with her is that she claims she gets along with everyone, including the Chamber of Commerce and groups I don’t agree with. As a general rule I don’t want a commissioner to get along with the Chamber or any groups that consistently work to undermine working people’s issues. Mostly, I’m not supporting Eddie for this seat is because Ward is running. If you are split between Ward and Eddie I’d recommend casting your ballot for Ward. If Ward can get 50% +1 we can avoid an April run off.
David Arreola is seen as a long shot to take out the incumbent Craig Carter in D-3. Arreola is young (26 years old) and has a lot less money than Carter. He would be the first Latino to serve on the commission adding much needed diversity to a Commission that’s 6 white and 1 African American.
Arreola’s politics are solid and he would make a great commissioner but getting him elected is the trouble. Carter, while a Republican that I butt heads with frequently, is very accessible. He has also moved away from his conservative positions and voted for progressive causes. He voted for the City to stop using mountain top removal coal and came out in support of the wild spaces public spaces tax. Carter also made the motion to increase workers’ pay to $12.25 an hour last year which is the the only reason it passed. Two sitting democrats voted against this motion the month before.
But can Arreola win? I think he can for a few reasons:
- The district is a bit different than it was in 2014. The district is now 50% Democrat and 23% Republican. And it’s 60% Democrat for those 65+ who are the most likely to vote. Party ID is going to be key in this “non-partisan” race.
- This is a student heavy district and students don’t normally vote in city elections. But I’m expecting a higher turnout in this election due to the heightened political climate. Also, a lot of these young people voted in November so their records should be up to date.
- Craig Carter has isolated himself from his base. While I’ve been shocked and happy with his progressive votes his coalition has not been thrilled. How many of his people will stay home because he went against the Chamber and supported the Wild Spaces tax? A dozen? How many more will leave their ballot blank in protest against his living wage motion? Another dozen or so? Keep in mind that Carter was elected in 2014 with only 180 votes.
Arreola has a real shot at winning this election. While Carter has been good on some issues (and terrible on others) I’d rather have a reliable progressive vote than a compassionate conservative as a commissioner.