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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Breaking down the ballot: Who Gainesville residents will see in primary races

Gainesville residents can vote in 14 elections in Tuesday’s primaries

<p>A graphic depicting candidates in the running for U.S. and Florida House.</p>

A graphic depicting candidates in the running for U.S. and Florida House.

A cattle farmer, an electrical engineer, a nurse and a former Gainesville mayor  — just a few of the contenders voters will find on their ballots in the upcoming primary election. 

Gainesville residents can vote in 14 races in the Tuesday primary, including the mayor of Gainesville, Florida’s 3rd Congressional District representative, the 8th Judicial Circuit judge and several seats on the Gainesville City Commission. 

Early voting ended Sunday, but residents can vote at their designated precincts from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Governor: Democratic Primary

Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist, a 66-year-old attorney and St. Petersburg resident, is in familiar territory. 

This year’s Florida gubernatorial election is Crist’s third; he ran as a Republican in 2006 and won against Democratic nominee Jim Davis, but he lost the general election to Republican nominee Rick Scott when he ran as a Democrat in 2014. 

Crist was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives representative for Florida’s 13th Congressional District in 2016, 2018 and 2020.

While in Congress, Crist voted to pass legislation to expand access to voter registration, prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in areas like education and federal funding, prohibit governments from restricting access to abortion and impeach former President Donald Trump. 

Crist’s running on a platform of securing the right to an abortion, expanding access to voter registration, reducing run-off and pollution in the state water supply and mitigating the statewide teacher shortage. He leads in campaign contributions among his other Democratic primary candidates, according to Transparency USA.

Cadance Daniel 

Cadance Daniel is a small business owner and Jacksonville resident.

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Daniel is running on a platform of expanding affordable healthcare and Medicaid, reforming the prison system, increasing state funding to small businesses and broadening gun safety legislation. 

Nikki Fried 

Nikki Fried, a 44-year-old attorney and Miami native, is running on “something new.”

The Florida commissioner of agriculture and Democratic candidate for governor aims to be Florida’s first female governor. This is her first gubernatorial race. 

Fried graduated from UF with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1999, a master’s degree in political campaigning and a law degree in 2003. She was a public defender until she was elected as the commissioner of agriculture in 2018, where she was the only Democrat to win a statewide office in the last midterm cycle. 

While in office, Fried she worked to legalize hemp farming across the state. She was also a member of the state Clemency Board and supported legislation to restore voting rights to felons who served their sentences in prison. 

Fried is running on a platform of expanding affordable healthcare and Medicaid, improving public transportation, raising the state minimum wage, mitigating gun violence through gun safety legislation and securing the right to abortion. 

Robert Willis

Robert Willis is an elementary school teacher and Space Coast resident. 

Willis graduated with an associate’s degree in criminal justice and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. He’s running on a platform of expanding affordable housing, securing the right to an abortion and increasing funding to education. 

U.S. Senator Democratic Primary 

Val Demings

Val Demings’ campaign has centered around the image of the American Dream.

The 65-year-old Jacksonville native was the first in her family to attend college, graduating from Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminology before completing her master’s degree in public administration at Webster University in 1996. Demings then relocated to Orlando,enrolling in the police academy and becoming an officer — and eventually the first female chief — at the Orlando Police Department.

Demings was elected Florida’s 10th Congressional District U.S. representative in 2016, when she defeated Republican nominee Thuy Lowe in the general election. She retained her position when the general election was canceled in 2018 and again in 2020, winning against Republican nominee Vennia Francois. 

While in Congress, Demings voted to pass legislation to expand voter registration, provide nationwide infrastructure funding, prohibit governments from limiting the right to abortion and distribute relief funds during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Demings is running on a platform of providing aid to small businesses, expanding affordable healthcare and increasing funding to law enforcement agencies. She leads in campaign contributions against her other Democratic primary opponents, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. 

Ricardo De La Fuente 

Ricardo De La Fuente is a 32-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist. He graduated from Harvard Business School and founded his own energy enterprise. 

This is De La Fuente’s first race. He’s running on a platform of implementing renewable energy, expanding affordable healthcare and combating climate change. 

Brian Rush

Brian Rush is an attorney and St. Petersburg native.

Rush graduated with bachelor’s degrees in history and American literature and a law degree from UF, and he also studied international law at Escuela Libre de Derecho School of Law in Mexico. He founded his own law practice before he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. 

While in office, Rush advocated for environmental regulations and funding for education. He’s running on a platform of mitigating inflation, reforming gun safety provisions and securing the right to abortion. 

William Sanchez

William Sanchez is an immigration attorney. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Miami and completed his law degree at Georgetown in 1986. 

Sanchez opened his own law practice in Miami before he was appointed as special counsel for the Department of Justice’s Division of Unfair Employment Practices under President George W. Bush in 2004. He is running on a platform of passing a Green New Deal to combat climate change, reforming the immigration system and expanding Medicare. 

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture

Naomi Blemur (Democrat)

Naomi Blemur is a 43-year-old manager of a consulting firm and Miami resident. 

Blemur graduated from Queens College with a degree in accounting and economics. She also studied business in the European Union in France and marketing in Spain. Blemur has since worked with a consulting firm and several nonprofits, and she was elected to the Miami Dade Democratic Executive Committee. 

Blemur is running on a platform of combating poverty and hunger, securing equity in education and mitigating climate change. 

J.R. Galliot (Democrat)

J.R. Galliot is a political consultant and grassroots organizer. He’s worked extensively with the governments in Haiti, Jamaica, The Netherlands, France, Italy, the Phillipines and the U.S. on foreign affairs, agricultural management, energy strategy and more policy areas. 

Gaillot ran for Florida's 3rd State Congressional District seat in 2012, losing in the general election to Republican nominee Rep. Ted Yoho. He ran in Florida’s 13th Congressional District (state or U.S.?) in 2016 and lost in the Democratic primary to Rep. Tracie Davis, who eventually won the general election. 

Gaillot is running on a platform of lowering inflation, eliminating food deserts across the state, advocating for minority farmers and protecting biodiversity. 

Ryan Morales (Democrat) 

Ryan Morales is a business consultant, cannabis activist and Cleremont native. 

Morales graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from William Paterson University and has since worked in cybersecurity and marketing. He then opened his own consulting firm and worked with small farms across the state. 

This is Morales’ second race; he ran for the Florida’s 32nd State Congressional District in 2020, losing the Democratic primary to Stephanie Dukes.

Morales is running on a platform of legalizing recreational marijuana use, securing statewide access to clean water and promoting biofuels and green harvesting. 

James Shaw (Republican) 

James Shaw is an organic farmer and real estate investor. 

Shaw graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology from Colgate University in 1983. He worked in transportation before opening three Auntie Anne’s Pretzels franchises, and he now owns a 30 acre composting farm. 

Shaw is running on a platform of upholding the Second Amendment and lowering production costs for farmers.

Wilton Simpson (Republican)

Wilton Simpson is a 56-year-old farmer, business owner, Florida Senator and Tilby resident. 

Simpson graduated with his associate of arts degree from Pasco-Hernando State College in 1997. He founded Simpson Environmental Services, an environmental remediation firm in Tilby. 

Simpson was elected in Florida’s 18th Congressional District to the state Senate in 2012 and 2014, and he ran unopposed both times. He was elected in Florida’s 10th Congressional District in 2016, when he ran unopposed and in 2018, when he defeated Michael Cottrell in the general election. 

Simpson was elected Florida Senate President in 2019, and while in office, he has proposed legislation promoting financial literacy, designating conservation areas across the state and expanding the standards of child welfare. 

Simpson is running on a platform of advocating for state farmers, increasing funding to law enforcement, supporting small businesses and protecting state waterways. 

Florida’s 3rd Congressional District Representative

Manuel Asensio (Republican)

Manuel Asensio is a 67-year-old investment firm founder and author.

Originally from Cuba, Asensio graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in 1979 and completed a master’s in business administration at Harvard University in 1982 before founding the Asensio & Company investment firm in 1992.

He’s running on an anti-corruption platform that directly challenges his Republican counterparts like incumbent Rep. Kat Cammack He aims to mitigate what he alleges are acts of treason and abuse of power within the federal government, such as Cammack’s refusal to debate and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ alleged unchecked power.

Asensio has been vocal in his criticism of Cammack, specifically on her alleged lack of response to his invitations to debate. Asensio sued Cammack under the Racketeer Influenced and Corruptions Act with allegations that she conspired to remove him from the ballot Aug. 10.

Kat Cammack (Republican)

At 34, Rep. Kat Cammack, the incumbent for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, is the youngest Republican woman in Congress.

 A Colorado native who grew up on a cattle farm, Cammack graduated Metropolitan State University with a bachelor’s degree in international relations in 2015. She then completed her master’s in national defense and strategic studies at the United States Naval War College in 2018 before moving to Florida.

 Cammack worked as the deputy chief of staff to former Rep. Ted Yoho, who previously served the 3rd District, before entering her first race in 2020. She won against Democratic candidate Adam Christensen in the general election.

Since then, Cammack has sponsored just under 300 bills introduced in the U.S. House, including legislation limiting Congressional terms, securing the right of Southern states to increase border defense and preventing taxpayer-funded abortions. 

 Cammack voted against legislation to ban assault weapons, ensure access to contraceptives and abortions, limit the cost of insulin under private health insurance and address issues relating to presidential abuses of power. 

She voted in support of legislation to suspend normal trade proceedings with Russia and Belarus amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, officially recognize the validity of same-sex and interracial marriages, declare lynching a federal offense and expand emergency telehealth resources beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

She leads in campaign contributions among other Republican primary candidates, according to campaign finance data from the Federal Elections Commission. 

Danielle Hawk (Democrat)

Danielle Hawk, a 27-year-old Gainesville resident of four years and community organizer, spent her adolescence volunteering in the suburbs of Philadelphia, working with food banks, tutoring programs and other nonprofits. She worked with students in higher education as a young adult and spent time in El Salvador and Guatemala working with underprivileged children.

Amid her community outreach efforts, Hawk realized she could make the most difference inside public office, she said. 

“I was a band aid,” she said. “The next step was really to solve some of these core issues.”  

Hawk, a Pennsylvania native, moved to West Palm Beach in 2013 to attend Palm Beach Atlantic University. She graduated with her bachelor’s in ministry in 2017 and received her master’s in intercultural studies from Biola University in 2020.

She is running in her first congressional campaign. She leads in campaign contributions among her other Democratic primary candidates, according to campaign finance data from the Federal Elections Commission.

Key points of Hawk’s platform include implementing stricter gun laws and more expansive buyback programs to mitigate the surge in gun violence, codifying the right to an abortion as granted by Roe v. Wade — a decision the U.S. Supreme Court overturned June 24 — into federal law and banning oil drilling to combat climate change.

Justin Waters (Republican)

Justin Waters is a sixth generation Floridian and Republican candidate for the 3rd Congressional District  seat, Waters attended elementary school in Oldsmar and spent weekends hunting in Dixie County. The 40-year-old Alachua resident and juvenile law attorney received his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida in 2007 and completed law school at Florida Coastal School of Law in 2015.

Waters supports tax cuts, the Second Amendment and stronger voter verification provisions, and he opposes decreased funding to police, a higher minimum wage and stronger gun restrictions.

Tom Wells (Democrat)

Despite a doctorate in theoretical physics and 16 years as the president of an airfield equipment manufacturing company, Tom Wells said his purpose lies in politics.

“I intend to finish my life doing this,” he said. “This will be my life’s work.”

Wells, a 71-year-old Gainesville resident of 22 years and Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District seat, is on the ballot for the fourth time following congressional campaigns in 2016, 2018 and 2020. He lost the 2016 general election, where he ran as an independent against Republican incumbent Ted Yoho, and he lost the Democratic primaries in 2018 and 2020 to Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson and Adam Christensen.

Wells’ platform includes reducing fossil fuel usage through mass installation of renewable energy sources, implementing a universal basic income and holding institutions like the Supreme Court accountable.

Florida’s 22nd State Congressional District Representative

Olysha Magruder (Democrat)

Olysha Magruder is a 44-year-old director of learning design and faculty development at Johns Hopkins University and a Gainesville resident of more than 20 years.

She graduated from UF with a bachelor’s degree of fine arts in printmaking, video and film in 2007 and completed her master’s degree in media studies from The New School in 2011. Magruder also earned her doctorate degree in educational technology from UF in 2015 and taught in schools across Alachua County before taking her current job.

Magruder is running on a “Putting People First” platform, which includes an emphasis on the rights of marginalized communities, affordable housing and increased funding in education. This is her second race; she lost the 2018 District 8 Democratic primary to Kayser Enneking.

Brandon Scott Peters (Democrat)

Brandon Scott Peters is a 54-year-old attorney and Levy County resident. He graduated from Princeton University with a bachelor’s degree in public policy analysis in 1989 and completed his law degree at the University of Virginia in 1992 before opening his own law practice in Williston.

Peters’ platform includes protecting the right to abortion, legalizing recreational marijuana use, expanding Medicare, and increasing funds toward education. This is his third race; he lost the 2018 Democratic primary to Bob Rackleff and withdrew from the 2020 Democratic primary.

Chuck Clemons (Republican)

Chuck Clemons, the race’s incumbent, is a 65-year-old former financial consultant and Alachua County native.

A fourth-generation Floridian, Clemons graduated from the University of Florida with his bachelor’s degree from the College of Journalism and Communications. He was an Alachua County commissioner from 1996 to 200 and is currently vice president for development at Santa Fe College.

Clemons has served in the Florida House since 2016, when he won his first race against Democratic nominee Marihelen Wheeler. He sponsored legislation to provide education to prisoners, exempt the autopsy reports of minors from public records laws and provide aid to Dixie County amid flood damage during his time as a representative.

Points on Clemons’ platform include increased funding to education, protection of natural resources, growth in the agriculture industry and job creation.

Ty Appiah (Republican)

Tayari “Ty” Appiah is a nurse, Air Force veteran and Bronson resident. He is running on a platform of constitutional conservatism, and he supports limited government, the Second Amendment and constitutional carry of a firearm. This is Appiah’s first race.

Attorney General 

Aramis Ayala (Democrat)

Aramis Ayala is a 47-year-old attorney and Orlando resident. 

Ayala became Florida’s first Black state attorney when she was elected to the Ninth Judicial Circuit in 2017. She was previously an assistant public defender and the assistant State Attorney in the Ninth Circuit, where she worked in homicide and major crimes. She is also an assistant professor in the University of Florida’s legal studies department and an adjunct professor in Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s law school. 

Ayala is running on a platform of reforming public safety, defending workers’ rights and securing the right to abortion. 

Jim Lewis (Democrat)

Jim Lewis is a criminal defense attorney and Ft. Lauderdale resident 

Lewis was the assistant state attorney in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, a special prosecutor under former Gov. Bob Graham and an assistant statewide prosecutor before he opened his own criminal defense practice. He is also an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University’s law school. 

Lewis is running on a platform of protecting voting rights, legalizing recreational marijuana use, securing the right to abortion and preventing state intervention in local governments.

Daniel Uhlfelder (Democrat)

Daniel Uhlfelder is a 49-year-old attorney and Santa Rosa Beach resident

Uhlfelder was a judicial law clerk and a defense attorney at a law firm in Miami before he opened his own practice in 2001. He is most known for warning beachgoers to stay home in a grim reaper costume at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Uhlfelder is running on a platform of lowering statewide utility rates, challenging real estate developers and securing the right to abortion. 

Eighth Judicial Circuit Judge

Sean Brewer

Sean Brewer is a Gainesville resident and assistant state attorney in the Eighth Circuit. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree in exercise science and law degree from UF.

Brewer has served as a prosecutor against domestic abuse crimes against women and major gun crimes in Alachua, Levy and Marion Counties, and he’s a member of the Eighth Judicial Bar Association and the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

AuBroncee Martin

AuBroncee Martin is a Gainesville resident and a felony division chief in the Alachua County public defender’s office.

A Tallahassee native, Martin graduated with his bachelor’s degree in history from Florida A&M University and completed his law degree at UF. He was the president of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Chapter of the Florida Association of Defense Lawyers, Josiah T. Wells Bar Association and Eighth Judicial Bar Association, as well as an adjunct professor at UF’s Levin College of Law.

 Nathan Skop

 Nathan Skop is an attorney and Gainesville resident. 

Skop graduated from UF with his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 1991 and his law degree in 2006. He also earned his master’s in business administration from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1996 and completed the mergers and acquisitions programs at the University of Pennsylvania.

He’s since served as a commissioner on the Florida Public Service Commission and represented multiple companies and property owners across Gainesville and Alachua County.

Dan Weisman

Dan Weisman is an attorney and lifelong Gainesville resident.

Weisman graduated from UF with bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and political science in 2000. He served as an infantry officer in the Army before he graduated with his law degree from UF in 2007.

The Florida Gang Investigators’ Association named Weisman Gang Prosecutor of the Year in 2011 for his work against street gangs, theft rings, drug traffickers and embezzlers. He is a member of the Alachua County Veterans’ Services Advisory Board and the Alachua County Historical Community Remembrance Project.

Alachua County Commission: District 2

Charlie Ray Jackson (Democrat)

Charlie Ray Jackson is a 64-year-old former facilities coordinator with the Alachua County Commission and Gainesville resident. 

Jackson is running on a platform of sustainable growth and sufficient funding toward county entities like the Sheriff’s Office, the Supervisor of Elections Office and the Clerk of Courts. The County Commission terminated Jackson from his position as facilities coordinator in February amid allegations of unequal hiring practices.

Marihelen Wheeler (Democrat)

Marihelen Wheeler is the 65-year-old chair of the Alachua County Commission and an Alachua County resident.

Wheeler worked in Alachua County Public Schools for 38 years, and she ran for Florida’s 21st State Congressional seat in 2012 and 2016. She lost the 2012 Democratic primary to Clovis Watson, Jr. and the 2016 general election to Rep. Chuck Clemons. Wheeler also ran for the 3rd Congressional District seat in 2014, losing the election to Rep. Ted Yoho.

Wheeler serves on several commissions across the county, including the National Association of Counties Human Services, the Alachua County Library District Governing Board and the Tourist Development Council. 

She’s running on a platform of increased economic opportunity, a more equitable community and expanded sustainability in response to climate change.

Gainesville City Commission: District 2

James Ingle

James Ingle is a 45-year-old electrician and a Gainesville resident of more than 20 years.

 Ingle is a member of the Alachua County Charter Review Commission, the Alachua County Plan Board and the CareerSource Board. He has advocated for a living wage ordinance and apprentice opportunities as a local activist.

Jo Lee Beaty

Jo Lee Beaty is a 73-year-old Gainesville resident of almost 40 years. 

Beaty was the Alachua County coordinator of the Child Abuse Prevention Project and worked with Littlewood Elementary School and Gainesville High School. She’s running on a platform of restoring city-wide financial stability and preserving historic Gainesville neighborhoods.

Ed Book

Ed Book is the 58-year-old chief of police at Santa Fe College and an Alachua County resident of 40 years.

Book is a UF alumnus and member of the Rotary Club of Gainesville. He was previously a member of Keep Alachua County Beautiful and a mentor in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of North Central Florida. He’s running on a platform of affordable housing, improvements to parks and recreational facilities and support for public safety.

Michael Raburn

Michael Raburn is a 51-year-old pastor at Gainesville Vineyard Church and Gainesville resident of five years.

Raburn earned his doctorate degree in ethics and public policy from Duke University in 2013 and began working with Love Wins Ministries, a ministry group dedicated to aiding homeless and at-risk populations in North Carolina. 

Raburn is running on a platform of economic diversity within Gainesville, improvements to infrastructure, police accountability and government stability.

Gainesville City Commission: District 3

Dejeon Cain

Dejeon Cain is a 38-year-old owner of a security company and lifelong Gainesville resident.

Cain is the chair of the city’s Human Rights Board and the Alachua County Affordable Housing Commission. He’s running on a platform of expanding affordable housing and lowering citywide utility rates.

Patrick Ingle

Patrick Ingle is a 62-year-old retired software engineer and a Gainesville resident. 

Ingle is running on a platform of expanding affordable housing, securing pedestrian safety and lowering citywide utility rates.

Casey Willits

Casey Willits is a 40-year-old UF college of medicine residency program coordinator and Gainesville resident.

Willits graduated with his bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of Arkansas in 2007, and he was the president of the Alachua County Young Democrats and a member of the steering committee of the UF chapter of United Campus Workers. 

Willits is running on a platform of implementing renewable energy and lowering utility rates, building a new park in District 3, improving public transportation and expanding affordable housing.

Gainesville City Commission: District 4

Bryan Eastman

Bryan Eastman is a 33-year-old activist, business owner and Gainesville resident. 

Eastman graduated with his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2007 from the University of Central Florida, and he has worked with Gainesville organizations like Grace Marketplace, the city’s Charter Review Committee and the Alachua County Democratic Party. He’s running on a platform of implementing renewable energy, lowering the cost of living and securing pedestrian safety.

Christian Newman

Christian Newman is a 53-year-old wildlife biologist and Gainesville resident.

Newman graduated with his bachelor’s degree in biology from College of the Holy Cross in 1991, and he earned master’s degrees in wildlife ecology and business in 1997 and 2002. He works as a technical executive with Electric Power Research Institute and was the president of APEM Inc., a geo-analytics company.

Newman is running on a platform of creating a more equitable economy, increasing public participation in government and expanding affordable housing.

Alachua County School Board

Tina Certain (District 1)

Incumbent Tina Certain is a 54-year-old accountant and lifelong Alachua County resident. 

Certain, who was first elected to the school board in 2018, is also a member of the Children’s Trust Board, the City of Alachua Planning Board and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Education Committee, and she is the 2022-2023 Florida School Board Association President Elect. She is running on a platform of advancing educational equity across the district and increasing community involvement in schools. 

Daniel Fisher (District 1)

Daniel Fisher is a 55-year old Air Force veteran, high school teacher and Williston resident. 

Fisher has experience in operations management, logistics and higher education. He is running on a platform of educating students, engaging parents and empowering teachers and staff

Diyonne McGraw (District 2)

Diyonne McGraw is a 53-year-old business owner and Gainesville resident. 

McGraw was elected to the seat in 2020, but her term was short-lived after Gov. Ron DeSantis removed her after seven months in office because she resided 300 feet outside District 4. DeSantis replaced her with Mildred Russell, the race’s incumbent. 

After the Gainesville City Commission redrew the districts earlier this year, McGraw’s property was within the new District 2 boundaries, making her eligible to run. She is running on a platform of mitigating the growing achievement gap, expanding behavioral and mental health support and increasing vocational programming. 

Mildred Russell (District 2 Incumbent)

Mildred Russell is a 73-year-old minister and Alachua County resident of more than 40 years.

Russell was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to replace Diyonne McGraw, who was found to reside 300 feet outside District 2, seven months after she was elected in 2020. She is a member of the local chapter of the state Republican Party, the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee and the Ballot Integrity Program.

Russell is running on a platform of improving transportation to schools, creating a more transparent school system and advocating for students and parents to school officials. 

Ray Holt (District 3)

Ray Holt is a 51-year-old cattle ranch owner and Alachua County resident.

Holt graduated with his bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice from Florida State University and his master’s in public administration from the University of South Florida. He was a member of the Jacksonville City Council from 2007 to 2015 and is now a member of the Alachua County Schools District Advisory Council. 

Holt is running on a platform of increasing behavior management, reinforcing basic reading and math skills and improving transportation to schools. 

Sarah Rockwell (District 3)

Sarah Rockwell is a 40-year-old educator, disability rights advocate and Alachua County resident.

Rockwell graduated with her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate in special education from UF. She worked in education for 20 years and is a member of the Exceptional Student Education Committee and the Democratic Public Education Caucus of Florida. 

Rockwell is running on a platform of mitigating the teacher and staff shortage, creating an equitable learning environment for students of all abilities and closing the achievement gap. 

Kay Abbitt (District 5)

Kay Abbitt is a 68-year-old director of a charter school, former educator and Gainesville resident of more than 30 years. 

Abbitt graduated with her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Atlantic College. She taught at Archer Elementary, Idylwild Elementary and Santa Fe College and owned a supplemental educational services business before founding Gainesville’s Boulware Springs Charter School in 2014. 

Abbitt is running on a platform of promoting unity within the district, closing the achievement gap and advancing innovation in curriculum and educational practices.

Prescott Cowles (District 5) 

Prescott Cowles is a 26-year-old project manager with Alachua County Public Schools and a Gainesville resident. 

Cowles taught at a Title I school in Hillsborough County before moving back to Gainesville, his hometown, to lead the school district’s COVID-19 response team. He also established the ACPS Teacher Advisory Committee. 

Cowles is running on a platform of mitigating the teacher shortage and ushering the county into a “new era” of public education.

Contact Heather at Follow her on Twitter @hmb_1013.

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Heather Bushman

Heather Bushman is a fourth-year journalism and political science student and the enterprise elections reporter. She previously wrote and edited for the Avenue desk and reported for WUFT News. You can usually find her writing, listening to music or writing about listening to music. Ask her about synesthesia or her album tier list sometime.

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