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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Gainesville City Commission candidates Todd Chase and Susan Bottcher came out victorious  in their election races Tuesday night, officially ending the local election season and putting two new faces in city hall.

Despite being first-time candidates, Chase and Bottcher, running for the District 2 and 3 seats respectively, won their run-off contests in convincing fashion, knocking off rivals Lauren Poe and Rob Zeller.

Chase, a local businessman who ran on a platform calling for disciplined spending and “common sense leadership,” was able to unseat the incumbent Commissioner Poe, securing 2,463 votes to Poe’s 2,044.

“I think the outcome is an indication that the voters of District 2 are looking for something new,” Chase said. “I want to get things done. I don’t want to sit around for three years.”

For some, Chase’s election represents a wrench being thrown into Gainesville’s political machine as he will be the only registered Republican on the commission once he takes office.

But Chase said he is more concerned with working with commissioners to find solutions to  Gainesville’s top problems than political ideologies.

“If people remain open-minded, I think we can get a lot done,” he said.

Bottcher, a political activist-turned-candidate, fended off Zeller, a bar and restaurant owner, receiving 1,486 votes to Zeller’s 1,092.

In total, 7,085 votes were tallied in the run-off, which represented 16.5 percent of registered voters who were eligible. In last month’s contest, there were 7,819 total votes between the two races, representing a 9 percent drop this time around.

Bottcher, who watched the return results at the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office with her family and supporters, attributed her win to her ability to build up her reputation and connections with Gainesville residents.

“So many people wanted this for me,” she said. “It’s so humbling.”

While she acknowledged there will be a learning curve to her new position, Bottcher expressed enthusiasm for working alongside the commission on issues facing the city, especially on the cleanup of the Cabot-Koppers Superfund site.

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While it was a jubilant night at the Supervisor of Elections office for Bottcher, the same could not be said for Poe, whose tenure will end in May.

“I love this job; I work tremendously hard,” Poe said. “That doesn’t always mean you always get to keep the job. At the end of the day, it’s up to the voters, and I support their decision.”

Although disappointed with the results, Poe said he would reach out to Chase in the weeks leading up to the transition. He referred to Chase as a “good guy” and credited him for running a clean campaign.

When asked about his political future, Poe did not rule out a return to local politics in the future, but said his focus will be devoted to family in the coming months as his wife is expecting.

For Zeller, another first-time candidate, Tuesday’s results represent an uphill battle in political ideology that he and his campaign could not overcome in a district that traditionally leans left.

But this bid for public office, Zeller said, wasn’t about partisan politics.

“I didn’t do this for me at all,” he said in an interview at his post-election celebration at XS. “I did this out of the goodness of my heart and for the people.”

While the outcome proved unfavorable for Zeller, he said he wouldn’t disqualify the idea of  running again in the future.

“But don’t tell my wife,” he said jokingly.

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