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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

After all the votes were tallied and all the precincts accounted for, one candidate gets to go back to work as a winner, while four others have more work to do.

That one, Commissioner Thomas Hawkins, fended off a stiff challenge for his at-large seat, securing 52.7 percent of the vote count, locking up another term on the commission.

In the races for Districts 2 and 3, no candidate received the 50 plus one majority required for a nomination, sending the respective races into a run-off round to be held in about four weeks.

In the District 2 race, incumbent Lauren Poe will face local businessman and political newcomer Todd Chase in a run-off. Poe got 35.1 percent of the votes, and Chase received 31.4 percent.

In District 3, two first-time candidates will square off in a run-off as Susan Bottcher garnered 41.9 percent of votes cast to Rob Zeller’s 30.7 percent.

In all, 10,979 votes were cast, which accounts for 14.85 percent of registered voters in Gainesville. At the Reitz Union precinct, 57 of the 4,471 registered voters cast ballots.

With numerous supporters in attendance at the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections, Hawkins, who defeated former mayor candidate Don Marsh, Richard Selwach and Jeffrey Fiedler, said that the victory will allow him to focus more on community issues as opposed to running a campaign.

“I just want to get back to work,” Hawkins said.“ I want Gainesville to be a community that provides jobs and opportunities not just for today  but for the future as well.”

Poe said he wasn’t surprised that he was pitted in a run-off for his current job.

“I didn’t quite know who I would be in a run-off against, but I was confident there’d be a run-off,” he said.

Not only was he not surprised, he’s been in this position before.

When Poe was elected in 2008, he won with 52.5 percent in a run-off against Bonnie Mott.

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“It’s sort of déjà vu all over again,” he said.

Chase, who spent result night at Beef O’ Brady’s, surrounded by family, friends and TVs showing a Gators baseball game, said he feels excited about the results.

“I think that clearly the people in District 2 are looking for something different,” he said. “I think my message was well-received.”

James Ingle, who earned 10.9 percent of the votes in District 2, expressed his disappointment but said he thinks he ran a good campaign.

“For a first time out, I don’t think that we were embarrassed,” he said.

He said if he had to do it over, he would have started campaigning sooner. He thought  the public could use a break after the November midterm elections, so he began campaigning in January.

“By then, I think there was a head start by the other people I was up against,” he said.

For Bottcher, the run-off between her and Zeller represents a contrast in perspective on how the city is faring.  Throughout the campaign, Zeller took many shots at the efficiency of city government in the wake of an economic downturn.

Bottcher, however, views the city’s actions from a different perspective, choosing to highlight progress made.

“I’m a glass-half-full kind of person … I think Gainesville has come a long way,” she said.

In an interview at his post-election celebration at Gator City, Zeller said the outcome indicates that Gainesville residents are looking for something new in city government.

While he acknowledged that he disagreed with the city commission on a lot of issues, he said if he is elected, his business experience would help improve the political process.

“We disagree on a lot of things, but I think we can get some work done,” he said.

The key to the run-off election, candidates from the two races said, will lie in who can court the votes of the third-place candidate who will not move on.

In District 2, Robert Krames earned 22.6 percent of the votes, and James Ingle earned 10.9 percent.

Chase said he feels confident that Krames’ supporters will vote for him because they have similar viewpoints.

“I think that the people who voted for Robert are going to be interested in looking at my campaign,” Chase said.

The District 3 race, however, doesn’t seem so clear cut. UF professor Jimmy Harnsberger earned 24.4 percent of the vote, which is not enough to send him into the next round but enough to make his votes pivotal in such a contest.

Just who will get those votes is anyone’s guess. Both Bottcher and Zeller believe their platforms will be attractive to Harnsberger voters in a run-off.

Each side has a legitimate argument. Both Bottcher and Harnsberger are registered Democrats, but Harnsberger, throughout his campaign, used phrases such as “budget cuts” and “fiscal responsibility,” things Zeller emphasized as well.

Gainesville City Election Results

At Large

Thomas Hawkins            52.7%

Don Marsh            42.0%

Richard Selwach              2.7%

Jeffrey G. Fiedler              2.6%

District 2

*Lauren Poe            35.1%

*Todd Chase            31.4%

Robert Krames            22.6%

James Ingle            10.9%

District 3

*Susan Bottcher            41.9%

*Rob Zeller            30.7%

Jimmy Harnsberger       24.4%

Ozzy Angulo              2.3%

Ramon D Trujillo              0.7%

* Denotes candidates to be involved in a run-off election next month.

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