Gainesville City Election Preview

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If you haven’t voted yet… GO VOTE! I have a handy voter guide here and you can find your voter location here. But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about trying to understand what’s happening with voter trends and why.

It’s notoriously hard to predict city elections. They take place in March and usually have dismal turnout. In 2014 we had 15% turnout and in 2015 it was 12.6%. The 2016 city election coincided with the presidential primary so its data is skewed.

To start with we have a lot more voters in 2017. In 2014 there were ~72,000 voters and in 2015 there were ~73,000. Right now there’s 88,194 people qualified to vote in this city election. That breaks down to ~123% increase or a full 16,400 more voters. This is mostly due to the 2016 election voter registration drive, but nevertheless, if turnout and vote share stay the same as 2014 then we can expect some 6,800 votes on election day.

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The Early Vote (EV) count lines up nicely but there’s far fewer Vote By Mail (VBM) ballots than expected. And to compound this oddity the trend has been for a higher vote share from VBM and a lower vote share from EV.

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What gives? The key is to see who is voting. In 2014 Republicans made up 28% of the voters at the polls, 22% EV, and 26% VBM.

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The Democrats, unions, and other left leaning groups have made major pushes to close the VBM partisan gap which was achieved in 2016. Over 90% of Democrats and over 95% of Republicans who cast their ballots by mail in 2017 also did so in November of 2016.

This could account for some of what we’re seeing this year but not all of it. The Republican vote share for EV is down to 15% and VBM is at 20%.

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Are the Republicans waiting for election day to vote? There were only some 60 more Republican VBM and some 30 more Republican EV votes cast in 2014. The demographic trends are favoring Democrats but not by these margins.

The prevailing theories are that Republicans are staying home because:

  • Carter in D3 is trying to appeal to Democrats
  • Clawson in D2 is a flawed candidate that Republicans aren’t excited about
  • Warren in At-Large can’t turn the chamber support into Republican turnout

But I don’t think these reasons tell the whole story.

Of the people who have voted so far 42% didn’t vote in 2015, 40% didn’t vote in 2014, and 31% didn’t vote in 2014 or 2015. Most of these are regular November voters who don’t vote in city elections. And these voters are overwhelmingly Democrats.

New Voters 2017

So what does this mean? It could mean that Clawson, Carter, and Warren are in big trouble. Carter is dropping A LOT of money in his race at the last minute. With the Chamber’s PAC mailers he’s spending well over $60,000 and some of that was for polling. Maybe they’re reading the same tea leaves.

It’s also very telling that the chamber has all but dropped Clawson from their outreach effort.

I did see the chamber putting out Facebook adverts for Warren in At-Large but no mail. And even those Facebook ads were short lived. Maybe they’re understanding the risk that their strong support could actually drive this electorate away from Warren.

But most excitingly this could also mean that the electoral push back to the Trump agenda is starting early. Could this be a sign of the so called “Indivisible Wave” expected in 2018?

Either way it’s terrible time to be a Republican in the Democratic stronghold of Gainesville.

Note: The numbers used here vary because of when they were pulled and how they were compiled but the general trends stand. 

Gainesville Voter Guide – 2017

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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

District Two:

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.

District Three:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

2016 GENERAL ELECTIONS GUIDE – Alachua County

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Update: 11/2/16: After a lot of conversations about Jill Stein I’d like to correct the record. Stein believes in vaccines and has a much more nuanced critique of the health effects of Wi-Fi. That said I still think she’s not speaking out against these and other conspiracy theories because she doesn’t want to lose their votes. This is dangerous but different than the way I presented her below. 


Vote by mail ballots were sent out on Wednesday (10/5) and should be in voters hand any day. You can request or track your ballot here.

You can skip the reasoning/background and see my recommendations here. Whatever you do, make sure you vote. You can vote early from October 24th to November 5th from 9-6PM at:

You can also find your voting location here if you want to vote on election day (Nov 8th).

President:

Vote for Clinton. She’s a flawed, center/center-right candidate, but you should vote for her. Her politics don’t line up with mine but she has my vote because Trump and his brand of politics need to be soundly defeated. If you’re considering a third party candidate please know that Johnson is a far-right ass-hat that can’t name one foreign leader and Jill Stein is an anti-vaxer that thinks wi-fi causes disease. And if you’re considering voting for Trump… how did you find this blog?

US Senate:

Vote Patrick Murphy. He’s another center-right democrat (can we please find a progressive to run for office) who has very little chance of winning. His crowing achievement is that he’s not Marco Rubio.

Congress D-3

Vote for Ken McGurn. This is a very tough one for me. Ken McGurn is yet another center-right democrat with a problematic history. Tom Wells (NPA) has better politics but no chance of winning. None. Don’t tell me this year is somehow made of magic and Wells can win, because he can’t. I don’t fault people for voting for Wells over McGurn. I blame McGurn’s politics and his history of calling homeless people crooks, criminals, and rapist (sound like Trump much?). My recommendation is to vote for McGurn to defeat the far-right Tea Party joke that is Ted Yoho but tell him you have a problem with how he talks about homeless people.

Florida Senate-8

Vote for Rod Smith. This might be the most important race on the ticket as it’ll have major ramifications for state politics for years to come. Smith is a centrist Democrat with a problematic history. Hell, they made a documentary about one of them but he’s good on many other issues. He’s also not Keith Perry who famously tried to take away local wage theft ordinances while his business was being accused of wage theft. Perry also recently slapped a man and there’s a video of it.

Florida Representative-10

Vote for Jerry Bullard. If you live in High Springs you’ll have a chance to vote for Bullard. His wife is a union teacher and he fully supports public education. His opponent, Elizabeth Porter, is a rising star in the Republican Party. If Bullard can pull off an upset it’ll be a major blow to the Republican bench.

Florida Representative – 21

Vote for Marihelen Wheeler. This is the first true progressive on your ballot. She’s a retired union school teacher, environmentalist, immigration rights activist, folksy as hell, and an all around great person. Vote for her. Give her money. Volunteer your time with her. If she gets elected she’ll do amazing things for working people.

Clerk of the Court

Write in Sam Collins. J.K Irby is a good guy that will undoubtedly be elected but the circumstances surrounding his father’s retirement are shady and needsto be called out. A strong write in turnout will show that the actions leading to J.K Irby being the only name on the ballot didn’t go unnoticed.

Sheriff:

Saddie Darnell has terrible politics. She lead the state wide charge against medical marijuana and her constant fighting with the County Commission is tiresome. Jake Jacobs is a Republican. If you can stomach voting for a Republican, go for it. If you can’t and can’t vote for Darnell – write in Pat Fitzpatrick. (Note: This is a insider joke. You can’t actually vote for a write in)

County Commissioners:

Write in candidates names won’t appear on the ballot but you can still vote for them. They are there due to a loophole in the primary law which allowed them to close out the recent August primary. It’s very unlikely that a Republican can be elected to the Alachua County Commission so most of them threw their support behind conservative Democrats. If the primary was open then the Republicans would have voted for these conservative Democrats and they would have won. The write-in candidates made sure that only Democrats voted in the primary election spoiling their plans and protecting the integrity of a Democratic primary.

While this worked well for progressives in Alachua County it also worked well for conservatives in Republican led counties. In Jacksonville a campaign manager closed out the primary of the much despised State Attorney Angela Corey. She ended up losing but the actions of her campaign manager locked out progressive voices and people of color who had major issues with her. In the outlying counties the far-right used this tactic to ensure that only the most reactionary are elected to office.

Write them in as a protest to the broken closed primary system if you want, I’ve considered it. I strongly supported Byery and Hutch in their primaries and will be voting for them again. I don’t know any of them or their reasons for running but Chloe seems to have great politics.

Vote Mike Byerly for County Commission 1.

Vote Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson for County Commission 3.

Write in Chloe Michelle Goldbach for County Commission 5.

Justice of the Supreme Court and District Court of Appeals:

Vote YES to retain all Judges. I don’t think judges should be able to be recalled. It’s bad for the justice system and democracy.  Here’s a quick read on the topic.

Amendments and Questions:

Vote NO on Constitutional Amendment 1 – the so called solar amendment is backed by the utility companies and would hamper individuals from putting up panels (link).

Vote YES on Constitutional Amendment 2 – this medical marijuana amendment isn’t perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’ll allow people with certain, really debilitating illnesses, to use marijuana legally.

Vote YES on Constitutional Amendment 3 – this amendment would exempt first respondents (police officers and firefighters) who are permanently disabled in the line of duty from ad valorem taxes.

Vote YES on Constitutional Amendment 5 – extends the homestead tax break to poor senior citizens. Poor elderly people in the state need this relief.

Vote YES on Alachua County Question 1 – the one mil for schools tax is really important for Alachua County. This tax goes to pay for art and music teachers, technology purchases, and nurses at every school. If you think kids, especially those who are poor and/or of color, should get a well rounded education then you should vote for this.

Vote YES on Alachua County Question 2 – The “Wild Places Public Spaces” tax goes to purchases conservation land and to build parks. This tax has gone to make Alachua County the unique place of culture and nature that I love.

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