Yvonne Hayes Hinson, D-Gainesville, was reelected to the Florida House of Representatives, defeating her Republican challenger Hollye Merton by 43 percentage points, as of 9:20 p.m. Tuesday.
As of 9:20 p.m, Hinson had 71.83% of the reported votes compared to opponent Merton's 28.17%.
Hinson celebrated her victory among family and friends at a historic home in East Gainesville. After the win, Hinson pointed to the work ahead of her.
“My platform will never change,” she said.
Hinson, a UF alumna, has served as a representative since 2020, when she was elected to the District 20 seat. She served on Gainesville City Commission from 2012 to 2015, and previously spent 14 years as an elementary school principal.
Her opponent, Merton, a Navy veteran, hadn’t served in public office before.
In 2022, Florida’s House of Representatives began redistricting the Florida map for Representative members. Hinson, who previously qualified for District 20, now qualified for the District 21 seat after the redistricting cycle changes.
“I love you,” Hinson said, addressing voters. “I thank you for taking so much confidence in me and trusting me to lead the district. I promise to always work hard for you. I am a fighter.”
Because of the changes statewide, Hinson told CBS4 that the new map attacks Black voters.
“I believe that's why my opponent has done so well, because of my gerrymandered district,” Hinson said after the election. “However, I think the gerrymandering is so extreme that it is giving the GOP rule over this whole state.”
As an entrepreneur and educator, Hinson’s platform focuses heavily on expanding education by funding public and magnet schools, paying teachers more, expanding mentorship programs and lowering interest rates on college loans.
In her online biography, Hinson stated one of her primary goals was raising Florida educational funding.
“One my primary goals is to raise Florida funding from #46 to the top ten so that schools and teachers have the tools they need to meet our primary mission of educating the next generation of Floridians," Hinson said on her website.
Some of Hinson’s top endorsements include Florida Planned Parenthood, American Youth for Climate Action, Florida LGBTQ Democratic Caucus and UF College Democrats.
Hinson also hopes to reform the criminal justice system by legalizing marijuana and providing rehabilitation programs, maintaining affordable housing, protecting natural springs from pollution and promoting solar energy.
Before the election was called, Hinson said she was historically disappointed with voter turnout rates.
“Here we are at the ninth hour before dawn, and it looks like we're only gonna get like 50%.,” Hinson said.“But truthfully, that's how it's been and that's a sad commentary.”
Even still, Hinson said her campaign went smoothly.
“It's a large territory to cover and a diverse territory so it's gone pretty well as expected.”
Mary Ann Lambert, 75, who attended the watch party, said she believes in Hinson’s impressive track record.
“She is a phenomenal legislator. She knows the bills, she does her homework. She fights for us,” Lambert said. “If you've ever seen her talk on the floor of the House in Tallahassee, it's with determination and fire and intelligence.”
William Bullen, a 21-year-old UF political science and public relations senior who also attended the watch party, said he agreed with Hinson on the issues.
“I want a representative that’s fighting for one of the most important groups of people in society,” Bullen said. “She also has a good record on environmental protections, gun reform and affordable housing ,which are three issues that matter a lot to me and my generation.”
Her opponent, Merton, a Navy veteran, hasn’t served in public office before.
Alissa Gary contributed to this report.
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