In the wake of the low voter turnout in Tuesday’s local commission election, three commission candidates celebrated their victories as election officials began to look for ways to increase turnout.
Just under 10,500 votes were cast in the commission election, despite the nearly 89,000 voters registered in Alachua County.
“We would have loved to see more voters go to the precincts,” said Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton, adding that there was an increase in early voting and mail-in voting.
She said she felt the cold weather hindered some participation.
Incumbent Helen K. Warren defeated Jenn Powell with 54.63 percent of the vote to hold on to the at large Gainesville City Commission seat while Democrats Harvey Ward Jr. and David Arreola took the District 2 and District 3 seats, respectively, with sizable majorities.
Ward Jr. clinched just over half of the 4,455 votes cast in District 2 over Perry Clawson and Sheryl Eddie while Arreola won 66.4 percent of the vote in District 3 over Craig Carter.
Warren, 63, who first won her commission seat in 2014, said she never took re-election for granted, and is looking forward to work- ing with housing, homeless issues and juvenile justice.
“There’s just a lot of things that this community is ready to do, and I want to continue that momentum,” Warren said at First Magnitude Brewing Company. She said she wants to stay in touch with her opponent, Powell, because more women are needed in politics.
“We’re going to hold her feet to the fire,” Powell said of the loss. “We’ll start Thursday.” Ward Jr. and Arreola, the two other victors in Tuesday’s election, gathered with about 50 supporters in a private room of Blue Gill Quality Foods, at 1310 SW 13th St., to watch the results.
Ward attributed the win to the supporters and volunteers who helped his campaign. He said the members of the campaign knocked on 8,000 doors in District 2 and made 12,000 phone calls.
At 8:31 p.m., Arreola walked into the room, apologized to cheering supporters for being late and thanked them for their patience. At 26, Arreola will be the youngest person on the commission.
He said he had monitored the results with one of his interns at the democratic office. After, he went to Holy Faith Catholic Church to talk to his family on the phone and pray.
“I am feeling very grateful and very humbled by what has taken place tonight,” he said. “I did believe that we could win but I did not expect this result.”
As Arreola celebrated, his opponent Craig Carter choked back tears as he thanked supporters and apologized for not winning re-election.
“God would open doors, and God would close doors, and, well, God has closed a door tonight,” Carter said. “And I’m not sure the door God’s going to open, but hold on, cause it’s going to be a doozy.”
He blamed his loss in part on his Republican affiliation. He plans on donating all extra campaign money to the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank and veteran support group Gainesville Fisher House Foundation.
Jeremiah Tattersall, a field director for American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, said there was a reaction from Democrats who felt unhappy with the results of the national election.
“This was a push back,” he said. “This wasn’t just a splash in the pan. They’re going to keep voting.”
Republican candidate Perry Clawson addressed supporters at the Warehouse Restaurant and Lounge after learning he lost the District 2 race. After he finished speaking, he unclipped his candidate pin from his jacket and quietly put it in his pocket.
“It seems like you just can’t win an election in this city unless you have a ‘D’ after your last name,” said Clawson, the only Republican candidate for District 2.
Just a half mile away at The Top restaurant, a shocked Sheryl Eddie sipped on a white pinot grigio as she realized she had lost her race.
“I really thought we were going to win, but it’s fine,” she said. “At least I get to sleep in tomorrow.”
Reflecting on her second consecutive run for commission office, Eddie said she might come out of retirement to get a part-time job and raise back the $6,000 she took out of her personal travel account for her campaign.
“My life is not over,” Eddie said.
Alligator writers Max Chesnes, Romy Ellenbogen, Meryl Korn eld, Jimena Tavel and Molly Vossler contributed to this report.
From left: Lisa Marshall congratulates David Arreola, 26, on his District 3 win Tuesday night at a results watch party at Blue Gills Quality Foods.