Three black women will challenge two incumbents in the City of Gainesville regular election in March. Five candidates have qualified for the March 20 election, and for the first time in about two decades, all of the challengers are black women, according to city records.

Gail Johnson, 40, hopes to unseat incumbent Harvey Budd for the At-Large Seat 1, while Gigi Simmons and Tyra “Ty Loudd” Edwards aim to defeat incumbent Charles Goston for the District 1 seat. The five-day period to register to run ended Friday.

“It’s really exciting to just be a part of an incredible group of women ready to take action and run for office in Gainesville,” Johnson said.

Johnson, a single mother and owner of delicious.delivered., a Gainesville catering company, is hopeful to see a ballot that includes several black women in the community, she said. If elected, she said she’d mend the increasing racial and economic division in the city.

Budd feels that although the representation of people of color and women in the City Commission may fall short, it has rich diversity in other ways. Budd feels he can offer a unique perspective as a senior citizen and naturalized American.

Overall, Budd said he is pleased to see more women getting involved in local politics.

“I think it’s a very positive change,” he said. “I’m just sorry that one’s running against me.”

As of press time, Johnson has raised $14,316 and Budd has raised $7,450, according to candidate finance reports.

Goston said he isn’t worried about maintaining his seat as the District 1 commissioner because he has the political experience and qualifications his opponents lack.

Although he’s happy to see three black female candidates running for local office, it’s going to take more than just one or two seats occupied by women of color to make a difference, he said. “Let’s see if they’re willing to allow some other people of color to represent districts that are not heavily populated by minorities,” he said.

Edwards was not available for comment. As of press time, Simmons has raised $3,330 for her campaign, Goston has raised $5,971.60 and Edwards has raised $770.

Simmons, a fourth-generation resident of the Porters Community and owner of Simmons Tax Services, doesn’t feel the City Commission accurately represents the demographic of Gainesville. But she hopes the results of this election will begin to change that.

“We’re trying to put people in place that represent the diversity of the community,” she said. “I knew that I could make a difference because I’ve already made a difference in my own community.”

Contact Jessica Giles at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jessica_giles_.

Jessica Giles is a junior journalism major and Commission Reporter for The Alligator. Starting as a copyeditor in the Spring 2017, she now covers all city and county affairs. She'll never turn down a cup of coffee or the opportunity to pet a beagle.