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Sunday, February 25, 2024
<p>A graphic showing the District 2 and 3 candidates moving to the run-off, as well as the District 4 winner Bryan Eastman. </p>

A graphic showing the District 2 and 3 candidates moving to the run-off, as well as the District 4 winner Bryan Eastman.

Tuesday’s primary election narrowed down the local races that will bring three new faces to the Gainesville City Commission.

Ed Book and James Ingle from District 2, as well as Dejeon Cain and Casey Willits from District 3, will face off in a runoff election Nov. 8, as neither pair of candidates reached more than 50% of the vote. 

Bryan Eastman was the only outright winner of the City Commission races. He is slated to become the new District 4 city commissioner.

With all precincts reporting and mail-in ballots still partially reported, Book led with about 40% of the vote, and Ingle followed with about 27%. Jo Lee Beaty and Michael Raburn, their other two opponents, did not receive enough votes to move on.

Willits took the lead with about 49%, narrowly missing the threshold to win the race outright. Cain held onto nearly 37% of the vote. Their third opponent, Patrick Ingle, received about 15% of the vote.

Eastman beat his opponent Christian Newman by about 6 percentage points, receiving about 53% of the vote.

The seats are currently held by District 2 City Commissioner Harvey Ward, District 2 City Commissioner David Arreola and District 4 City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos, all of whom reached their two-term limits. 

Ward, who is a mayoral candidate, will also go to a run-off against former Gainesville Regional Utilities manager Ed Bielarski for the seat. Arreola, another mayoral candidate, will not move on. 

District 2

Originally from Fort Lauderdale, Book, 58, has been a Gainesville resident since the early ’80s, when he moved to the city to attend UF.

Book served 36 years at the Gainesville Police Department, beginning in 1985 during his college years and retiring as a captain. At Santa Fe College, he’s chief of the college’s police department, and he also teaches two public safety and police courses.

Throughout his campaign, Book emphasized the importance of bringing civility and friendliness back to local politics. He said important issues won’t be solved with antagonism on the Gainesville City Commission. 

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At his election watch party Tuesday night, Book said the result showed voters support his message.

“People truly are interested in working collaboratively and working as a team and trying to do things together,” Book said. 

His agenda for office includes cutting GRU fees, improving city-wide public transportation, increasing bicycle and pedestrian movement measures, improving roads and investing in a revitalized downtown, Book said.

Although James Ingle, 45, finished in second place, he sees himself in prime position to win the November runoff.

In November, more voters are expected to turn out for the general election and skew the election results toward a more liberal candidate, Ingle said.

“I think that plays pretty much to my strengths,” Ingle said.

Ingle’s background in organized labor has earned him endorsements from The Gainesville Iguana, Human Rights Council of North Central Florida and the North Central Florida Central Labor Council. 

As the president of the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union, he has championed the idea of three local ordinances in his campaign. 

The first would be to prevent what Ingle calls “wage-theft” — the failure of an employer to properly compensate their employees. The second would be to get city residents a living wage. 

Ingle said he’d also plan to introduce apprenticeship programs to ensure Gainesville has a supply of public works laborers. 

“We’re having a hard time finding enough tradesmen to fill spots at GRU, general government and housing,” Ingle said. 

He’s stressed the importance of being able to recruit locally to fill those jobs.

District 3

Casey Willits, a 40-year-old resident of southwest Gainesville, joined the City Commission race to be a strong advocate for the residents of District 3, he said. 

Willits, who moved here three years ago, hails originally from Arkansas, where he started the first Gay-Straight Alliance organization in the state.

“That really just kept me close to politics, even locally,” Willits said.

He has worked at the UF College of Medicine for seven years, where he has served as an administrative support assistant, and is currently a residency program coordinator. He said working at the university keeps him young.

Willits’ endorsements include the North Central Florida American Congress of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, UF College Democrats and the Human Rights Council of North Central Florida, among others.

On a city-wide scale, Willits cares about keeping GRU prices low. He cited GRU prices as the most important issue on his platform and said he is “firmly in the camp that we should keep it a public utility,” as opposed to privatizing the company.

Willits also hopes to fund civic infrastructure within District 3 and southwest Gainesville.

“Someone has to make sure that southwest Gainesville and District 3 is a priority on the Commission, and that’s the commissioner I want to be,” Willits said.

DeJeon Cain, 38, is a lifelong resident of Gainesville and immediate former chair of the Alachua County Affordable Housing Committee. Now, with an opportunity to take the seat in the November runoff, he said voters are in tune with what the community needs. 

“Mr. Cain is here for the community,” Cain said. “I’m here to take their needs, put my thoughts into it and my heart into it.”

During his 18 years of public service, Cain has been on the Gainesville Equal Opportunity board, the Development Review board and the city’s planning board. 

He said some city issues have remained the same for decades due to poor leadership by commissioners who are not originally from Gainesville.

“We need somebody who is from Gainesville and who understands Gainesville,” Cain said. “Because anybody can run, but are you qualified?”

If elected, Cain said he promises to repeal a Gainesville zoning policy allowing multi-family housing to be built on land currently reserved for single-family housing.

“We don’t have the infrastructure,” Cain said. “We are not ready for it.”

Cain agreed GRU prices are of high concern in the community.

“Students are having to decide whether they’re going to pay their GRU bill or their rent,” Cain said. “That is unacceptable. We’re going to have to do something about that.”

Among Cain’s top priorities is creating more affordable housing options while expanding sustainable sources and preserving green city spaces.

“In my vision, there would be no citizens called under-represented and no neighborhoods called under-served,” Cain wrote on his campaign website.

District 4

Bryan Eastman, 33, said he never thought he’d find his name on a ballot as a young activist. 

Eastman first joined politics as a progressive activist in his hometown near Tallahassee. 

More recently, Eastman started Connected Gainesville, an organization that advocates for affordable internet connection across the city.  

A ten-year resident of Gainesville and father of a two-year-old daughter, he’s now a trainer with the National Democratic Training Committee and a software developer. 

“I think it’s an important time in the history of our city,” Eastman said. “I want to make sure it’s a better future for [my daughter].”

Eastman said he hopes to increase the city’s affordability.

“We need to ensure that we’re a city that people can live in,” Eastman said, “that we’re not just becoming one that is only for the wealthiest people who can afford to be here.” 

Eastman plans to lower energy prices as well as maintain environmental sustainability in the GRU system.

If elected, he wants to distribute the $8 million given to the city by the American Rescue Plan, some of which he said will aim to reduce homelessness.

“I want to make sure those funds get used for people who are most in need,” Eastman said. “We are really moving forward on something that will help get people off the street and into a safe place they can call home.”

Contact Christian at ccasale@alligator.org, Alissa at agary@alligator.org and Anushka at adakshit@alligator.org. Follow them on Twitter @vanityhack @AlissaGary1 and @anushkadak.

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Christian Casale

Christian Casale is a history senior and the university desk editor for The Alligator. In his spare time, he loves writing his bio for the website and watching movies alone in the dark.


Anushka Dakshit

Anushka Dakshit is a fourth-year journalism and women’s studies major and the general reporter on the University desk of The Alligator. She started out as an arts and culture reporter at The Avenue and hopes to pursue arts and culture reporting and print magazine journalism in her career. Along with The Alligator, she is one of the Print Editorial Directors of Rowdy Magazine. In her free time, she likes to listen to old Bollywood music, read and obsess over other writers’ processes whenever she has no idea what she’s doing (which is often). 


Alissa Gary

Alissa Gary is a second-year journalism major who's covering K-12 education for The Alligator. She has previously reported on student government and university administration.  Aside from writing, she likes to take care of her plants and play (and usually win) the New York Times sudoku puzzle.


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