Chuck Clemons will enter his fourth term as a Florida representative after defeating Democratic opponent Brandon Peters with 56.7% of the vote as of 9:23 p.m. Tuesday.
“I was honored that the people that voted for me before had continued confidence in my leadership ability to vote for me again,” Clemons said Tuesday night. “I’m looking forward to helping the district that has reelected me.”
The 65-year-old has served in the House District 21 seat since 2016, and will now become the representative of the redrawn 22nd District. This district includes Archer, Newberry and western and central Gainesville. It also includes Gilchrist and Levy Counties.
“The six years that I’ve been able to pass bills in the Legislature will pay dividends for the last two years,” Clemons said. “Hopefully the district that elected me will reap some of those benefits for me being in a leadership position in the house.”
The three points Clemons devoted his 2016 campaign to — education, environment and agriculture — are still his focus.
Clemons has served as Santa Fe College’s vice president since 2007. Clemons said he prides himself on helping to raise more than $70 million in scholarships for underrepresented groups in the past 15 years. As District 22 representative, Clemons wants to continue to develop education in North Central Florida by raising teacher salaries.
Environmental protection is also very important to Clemons, he said. Having learned to swim in Poe Springs, Clemons said he’s working to replenish the springs by removing pollutants. He has helped raise $350 million to fund spring restoration projects, he said.
Clemons also emphasized the importance of agriculture in his life, growing up on a chicken farm in High Springs. There are many types of agricultural products grown and produced in the district, he said, and it’s important to educate the public on the role they play in the community.
“Agriculture is the industry that our region — after education — certainly is supportive of,” he said.
Clemons is also proud of his sponsorship of a campus freedom-of-speech bill four years ago, especially in the wake of recent UF protests, he said.
“Most of the universities and colleges in Florida had only a specific place on the campus that was deemed a free speech zone,” Clemons said.
Clemons called this rule “ridiculous.”
“The whole campus is a free speech zone,” he said.
Prior to Clemons’ position as vice president of SFC, he served as an Alachua County commissioner from 1996 to 2000. He graduated from Santa Fe High School and attended Florida Gateway Community College to receive his associate degree. Clemmons received his bachelor’s degree from UF’s College of Journalism and Communications.
Clemons has been endorsed by the Florida Retail Federation, Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Realtors, among others.
During the campaign, Clemons led the race for campaign contributions with $324,175, according to Transparency USA. His Democratic opponent, Brandon Scott Peters, trailed behind in contributions with $150,643 — less than half of Clemons’.
Clemons’ top donors include the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee, the Republican Party of Florida and the Realtors Political Advocacy Committee.
Peters, 55, is a native Floridian who resides in Levy County with his wife, Stacey, and is a civil attorney at his law firm called Peters Law in Williston. Peters grew up in Jacksonville and went to Princeton University for his undergraduate degree before going to the University of Virginia for his law degree.
Peters has never served in a political office before, but he ran for U.S. House District 3 in 2020 before withdrawing. In 2018, he ran for U.S. House District 2 but lost the primary election to Bob Rackleff.
As a representative, he wanted to focus on a variety of issues including protecting women’s rights, education and the authority of local government.
Peters said he believes women deserve to have bodily autonomy, and it’s critical to elect legislators who will fight for reproductive rights.
“We need to make sure that freedom is truly free and human rights, civil rights and women’s rights are all public policy that I intend to pursue aggressively in the legislature,” he said.
Issues that are meant for local government to address have been taken away by the governor and the political party in control of the Legislature, Peters said.
The total population of the district is 154,726 with 74.4% of the population being white. The second largest demographic is the Hispanic population with 12.6%.
In the Democratic primary election, Peters beat Olysha Magruder by winning 51.6% of the vote. As of Nov. 6, he raised $208,932.39 in monetary contributions for his campaign compared to the $325,457 Clemons raised. One of Peters’ top donors includes Chistopher Crane, who’s the chief executive officer of Exelon.
Peters has multiple organizations that endorsed him including the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida, the Florida Squeeze and the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus.
Other state representatives that endorsed him are Yvonne Hayes Hinson and Joe Geller. Hinson is the incumbent of the District 20 seat and is running for the District 21 seat. Geller is the District 100 representative.
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Lily is a third-year journalism major with a concentration in environmental science covering criminal justice for The Alligator. Last semester, she served as the Santa Fe reporter. When she's not writing, you can find Lily on a nature walk, eating Domino's Pizza or spending time with her friends.
Alexa Herrera is a junior journalism major who is the metro general assignment reporter for The Alligator. She is also a copy editor for The Florida Political Review and a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. In her free time she enjoys cheering on the New York Rangers during hockey season, listening to Harry Styles and spending time with her friends.