Long before he was a window cleaner and Gainesville mayor candidate, Don Marsh played chess.
The key to being a good player, he said, is having the discipline to play the board instead of the opponent, and the same applies to the campaign trail for Gainesville mayor.
For Marsh, this election cycle has been one grueling game against a tough and seasoned opponent, City Commissioner Craig Lowe.
As the two prepare to face off once more in an April run-off election, both candidates emphasized the importance of sticking to the issues instead of resorting to political mudslinging.
But for Lowe, this campaign season has been plagued by people whom he describes as “want[ing] to drive a wedge in the political community.”
Despite his pledge to focus squarely on the issues, Lowe has faced a slew of personal attacks, mostly pertaining to his sexual orientation.
“None of this would come up without the attacks,” he said. “There’s no reason for it.”
One of the most prominent examples were fliers that were distributed across the city that said Lowe was responsible for allowing men in women’s restrooms. The fliers claimed to be sponsored by “concerned citizens of Gainesville.”
Another flier attempted to mimic one flier from his campaign. The pink flier mockingly advocated for the support of a “gay agenda.”
More recently, the Dove World Outreach Center, a local church known for its controversial stances on Islam and homosexuality, has made it clear it will not support a gay mayor.
In a video posted on YouTube, Wayne Sapp, a pastor with the Dove World Outreach Center, made the case that the city of Gainesville cannot afford to have a gay mayor.
“Here in Gainesville, they’re getting ready to have a run-off election between two candidates, and one of them is openly a homo, gay, fag — whatever you want to call him,” Sapp said. “We got one running for mayor of Gainesville, trying to convert Gainesville into Homoville. We can’t have it. “
The video, which has since been removed from YouTube due to a violation of the site's terms of service, called out local churches for not standing up for what, Sapp said, the Bible preaches.
“We feel it’s our obligation to speak out that homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle,” said the Rev. Terry Jones, the church’s senior pastor.
According to Jones, all videos put online that feature Pastor Sapp or himself have been endorsed and approved by the Dove World Outreach Center church.
Such statements could infringe upon Section 501c3 of the IRS tax code, which regulates political involvement by religious groups.
Mike Dobzinski, the IRS spokesman for the state of Florida, could not comment on the church’s specific case but did note that any political participation by a religious organization may jeopardize a church’s tax-exempt status.
As the election season continues, Marsh said, members of Lowe’s campaign could use his sexual orientation for political advantage.
As far as using it as a political advantage, Lowe and his campaign manager, Garrett Garner, were baffled.
”I don’t even know how you would go about doing that,” Garner said.
Correction 3/25/10: The Alligator originally misspelled Garrett Garner's name. This has be corrected.