In Tuesday night’s District 22 primary election, State Rep. Chuck Clemons comfortably secured victory in the Republican race, but Democrats Olysha Magruder and Brandon Scott Peters were considerably closer to one another, with no clear winner despite all precincts in Alachua, Gilchrist and Levy Counties reporting their results.
Clemons swept up over 70% of the vote defeating his opponent Ty Appiah. As of early Wednesday morning, Peters has 52% of the vote in the Democratic primary, with Magruder trailing at 48%.
Clemons has held office since 2016 and was originally elected to Florida’s 21st State House District before redistricting took place. He still holds office in the 21st District. But, if re-elected, he’ll occupy the seat in the redrawn 22nd District, which includes Archer, Newberry and western and central Gainesville, as well as Levy and Gilchrist Counties.
Clemons was first elected in 2016 when he defeated his Democratic opponent Marihelen Wheeler with more than 53% of the vote. He was re-elected in 2018 and 2020, receiving about 51% of the vote each time.
Clemons, a north central Florida native, graduated from the UF’s College of Journalism and Communications and previously served as a vice president at Santa Fe College. He was also an Alachua County Commissioner from 1996 to 2000.
Clemons heralds himself as a champion of education and notes his efforts to increase pay for teachers, according to his website.
On Tuesday night, Clemons said he was running on a record cultivated over his years of service in the State House.
“Florida is doing exceptionally well in many aspects of government,” he said. “We’ve got a record surplus. We have supported our first responders and law enforcement officers.”
Clemons recently opposed the Gainesville City Commission’s decision to eliminate exclusionary zoning, which established single-family zoning in some areas. He sent a letter to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity asking to hold the decision until state legislators could address it.
Clemons has raised more than $230,000 in campaign contributions, according to Transparency USA. His campaign’s top donors leading up to the primaries were the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee and the Republican Party of Florida, totalling about $70,000.
His Republican opponent in the primary was Ty Appiah, a nurse and Air Force veteran originally from Brooklyn. He ran on a conservative platform, advocating for a protection of Second Amendment rights and limiting government overreach in social welfare programs.
Magruder’s 2018 run at a Florida representative seat ended with a defeat in the primary for the 8th State Congressional District to Kayser Enneking, an anesthesiologist at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. Enneking later lost to Clemons in the general election.
The 44-year-old Democratic candidate earned a doctorate degree in educational technology from UF in 2015. She’s been a resident of Gainesville for more than two decades and now works as the director of learning design and faculty development at Johns Hopkins University.
Magruder is an advocate for LGBTQ equality, reproductive rights, public education reform and renewable energy.
“I think these common sense issues are things that the people in this district want and need,” Magruder said. “My vision for the district is to bring that common sense back to legislation.”
Jenn Powell, a 44-year-old Gainesville resident and Communications Workers of America union organizer, said she’s supported Magruder since her 2018 campaign. She said she was drawn to Magruder’s stance on protecting unions from decertification and reproductive rights.
Contributions for Magruder’s campaign total more than $36,000, according to Transparency USA. One of Magruder’s top donors is Gainesville Bread and Roses Women’s Health Center, which is a clinic that provides abortion services.
Brandon Scott Peters
Brandon Scott Peters is a Jacksonville native who now lives in Levy County. He graduated from Princeton University in 1989 and attended law school at the University of Virginia. After working as a lawyer for 30 years, he became a professor at Florida A&M University.
Peters ran for the Florida House 2nd District seat in 2018, failing to best fellow Democratic candidate Bob Rackleff in the primary. His most recent political experience came from working as the director of voter protection for the Florida Democratic Party and the Biden-Harris campaign.
“This is an important election,” Peters wrote in a statement. “Our democracy is very much at stake this year.”
Peters’ platform is progressive with a focus on improving infrastructure in the district. He emphasized the importance of infrastructure in Gainesville and supported the development of UF and Santa Fe College on his campaign website. Women’s rights, civil rights and promoting cryptocurrency are also listed as key issues on his platform.
Peters received about $116,600 in campaign donations according to Transparency USA. Notable contributions to his campaign come from Viviana Gray-Woodmore, the CEO of Exelon and Democratic Miami candidate for U.S. House Ken Russell.
Voting for the Florida House 22nd District general election begins Nov. 8.
Contact Omar at email@example.com and Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow them on Twitter @OAteyah and @Jaxacastellano.
Omar Ateyah is a third-year journalism student and the Alligator's Race and Equity reporter. He previously served as the Alligator's crime reporter and as a news assistant on the Metro Desk. He enjoys going on long, thoughtful walks.
Jackson Castellano is a second-year sports journalism student and the assistant sports editor at the Alligator. In the past, he has covered UF basketball and baseball for the Alligator and was an associate editor at ClutchPoints.