On March 14th, Alachua County held the Gainesville Regular Election. The elections determined who would be representing Gainesville City Commission districts 2 and 3, as well as who would hold at-large seat 2. Harvey Ward Jr. won district 2 in a three-way race while David Arreola and Helen K. Warren defeated their opponents in the race for district 3 and at-large seat 2, respectively.
All the elections were non-partisan races. This meant that two democrats could be running against each other, or two republicans, three libertarians etc. The most contested of the races was the battle for at-large seat 2 between the winner and incumbent Helen K. Warren and challenger Jenn Powell. Powell gained attention in the community as an outspoken activist for Bernie Sanders and other progressive causes in Alachua County. The volunteer force she had cultivated for the presidential campaign in Gainesville manifested itself into support for her own campaign. Powell entered the race less than a month before the election, yet earned over 45% of the vote with around 4,600 votes cast in her favor. Despite her loss Powell told The Gainesville Sun that she would use her influence to hold Warren’s feet to the fire and make sure she keeps election promises.
Each race brought its own surprises that no one in Gainesville seemed to see coming. Namely Harvey Ward Jr. defeating both his opponents outright in the fight for district 2. Because it was a three way race, a run off election was expected as it seemed unlikely any of the candidates would breach the 50% mark required to win the commission seat. However, Ward Jr. had an amazing showing, with his victory being the first called, mustering 50.7% of the vote to defeat opponents Perry Clawson and Sheryl Eddie.
The third and final race we’ll be discussing was a surprise for less positive reasons. Despite being the most expensive of the three races in the Gainesville Regular Election, district 3 suffered from the lowest turnout with around 3,000 votes giving newcomer Arreola the victory over Craig Carter. Arreola claimed 66% to Carter’s 33%, but it’s hard for the win to be seen as voters having high expectations for his abilities. According to the Gainesville Sun the two candidates spent the most out out of the seven running and gained the least bang for their dollar.
This signals to a much larger problem facing Alachua County. Despite the claim from the Board of Elections that more voters participated this election compared to previous years (Which is true) this doesn’t take into account that Gainesville’s population increased over that period of time as well. When taken as a percentage of eligible voters, participation has been steadily decreasing in Alachua County. As can be easily ascertained from looking at their website, turnout was just under 12%. It’s hard to be proud of those numbers, but it’s hard to say what the Board of Elections can do in the future to increase participation.