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Gainesville City Commission elections: Chase stays, Bottcher out

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Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 1:15 am

Tuesday’s City Commission elections saw one incumbent re-elected, another voted out and two candidates facing a runoff election next month.

Incumbent Todd Chase won District 2 with 56.95 percent of the votes, according to the Supervisor of Elections office website. Craig Carter beat out incumbent Susan Bottcher, earning 52.59 percent. At-Large Seat 2 candidates Helen K. Warren and Annie Orlando will face each other in a runoff election April 8 because neither received the majority of the votes. Warren garnered 45.14 percent, and Orlando came away with 44.05 percent.

The results showed 10,843 residents — or 15.06 percent of registered voters — showed up to vote, a number that’s consistent with previous city elections, said Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter.

Now, Warren and Orlando are encouraging more voters to cast ballots in the runoff election.

In front of a crowd of more than 50 of her supporters at Tall Paul’s Brew House, Warren, 60, said she needs to do more groundwork if she wants to win.

“It was just so close,” she said. “We need to take this from a runoff to a winning campaign.”

Warren ended her speech by asking the crowd: “Am I finished?”

Her supporters yelled back “No!” in unison.

However, Orlando, 59, said she’s planning to fight hard to beat Warren in the runoff.

She said she believes Warren isn’t familiar with the problems City Commission faces. Warren hasn’t attended many commission meetings, Orlando said, and it was obvious she was unfamiliar with the issues during candidate forums.

The runoff election may make it easier for voters to differentiate between platforms because they only have to choose between two candidates on the ballot, she said.

“Now it’s just me against her,” she said at her post-election reception at the Warehouse in downtown Gainesville. “People can compare better.”

While Warren and Orlando are preparing to kickstart their campaigns again, Chase is ready to settle into his second term.

Chase said his first order of business is to address Gainesville’s transportation needs, including routes that primarily service UF and Santa Fe students.

The incumbent ran in 2011 because of his mother’s struggle to live on a fixed income while city fees and utility bills increased. Though she has since passed away, her influence on Chase’s policies lives on.

“This is the first big accomplishment in my life she hasn’t been here for, and her memory will be with me for everything I do in public office,” said 47-year-old Chase, standing atop a chair inside the Northwest 43rd Street Beef O’ Brady’s surrounded by family, friends and supporters.

Carter, 54, said once he takes office and gets up to speed, he’ll be tackling issues such as expanding RTS bus routes and fighting increases in Gainesville Regional Utilities rates.

“I feel very humble that the voters of District 3 selected me to represent them as city commissioner,” he said.

Bottcher, who will remain on the commission until May, said she was surprised she lost.

“I felt really good,” she said soon after results were displayed at the Supervisor of Elections office. “I was getting a lot of good feedback.”

At about 8 p.m., Bottcher, 56, called to congratulate Carter.

She hugged her son and told him, “I guess I’ll be spending more time at home.”

Later on in the night, she joined Warren and District 2 runner-up Sheryl Eddie at Tall Paul’s. As supporters sipped on drinks, Warren headed up to the stage of the dimly lit bar to thank volunteers and voice doubts about the future of the commission.

“I feel that I kind of let everybody down,” Bottcher told the crowd. “But I feel worse for the City of Gainesville.”

[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 3/12/2014 under the headline "Elections: Chase stays, Bottcher out"]

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