After following the results closely from their respective watch parties, Gainesville City Commission candidates Cynthia Chestnut and Matt Howland are gearing up for their next challenge: a runoff election.
Following Chestnut’s lead of 5% in the City Commission special election to replace former Commissioner Gail Johnson, she and Howland will move forward to a runoff election Jan. 25 because neither candidate surpassed 50% of the vote.
Voters who supported the other three candidates — Scherwin Henry, Patrick Ingle and Gabe Kaimowitz — are now tasked with making another choice. Both candidates have adapted their campaign styles to attract more voters.
Howland, a first-time Gainesville City Commission candidate, said he was honored the voters chose him to continue his campaign. To adapt his campaign for the runoff, he plans to ramp up outreach efforts, knock on more doors and engage with voters.
“No one is going to match my energy and focus,” he said. “We are going to be in the field every day doing exactly what we did before, except this time we’re going to work twice as hard.”
He said his campaign focuses on his interactions with Gainesville residents one-on-one.
Howland believes his interactions with voters and door-knocking may have helped bolster turnout. The turnout for the election was 13%, better than the lower than 11% in the last city commission election.
Now that the runoff race has whittled down to two candidates, Howland said the choice between him and Chestnut will show the future direction of Gainesville.
“The voters get it,” Howland said. “The voters know that this race is absolutely about a choice for the future.”
Chestnut, a seasoned politician who represented Gainesville on its City Commission and as its first Black female mayor, won the most votes Tuesday.
“I am grateful to all of the people who voted for me to give us the first place victory,” she said.
Despite the fact she wished for a win on the first ballot, Chestnut said she’s ready to move forward in preparing for the runoff.
She said her experience is what sets her apart from Howland in the runoff election.
“We both have new ideas of what to do and how to do it, but I am the one who has the experience of implementation,” she said. “We don't have time to wait around for someone to learn the job.”
Armando Grundy-Gomes, a 40-year-old Gainesville resident, said he was a strong supporter of Scherwin Henry because of his past record on the City Commission and his views on equity. Henry served two terms from 2006 to 2012 representing District 1, which encompasses much of East Gainesville.
However, Grundy-Gomes said he respects the voice of the voters who chose Howland and Chestnut for the runoff election.
“I supported Scherwin Henry unapologetically. I believed in him — still do,” Grundy-Gomes said. “But the voters thought differently. And that’s all we can do is move forward.”
Despite Henry not moving forward to the runoffs, Grundy-Gomes said he plans on researching Chestnut and Howland before voting in the Jan. 25 election.
“We should take part in our government,” he said. “Not the minority, but the majority of us that live here … Local government affects us all.”
Meghan McGlone is a UF junior majoring in journalism and English, and this year she’s the City and County Commission reporter. In past years, she’s served as the University Editor, the Student Government reporter, and other positions. Her favorite past time is eating gummy worms and reading a good book.
Jiselle Lee was The Alligator’s Summer 2023 Editor-In-Chief. She was previously a reporter with NextShark News and a reporting intern at The Bradenton Herald.