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From left: U.S. congressional candidates Democrat Ken McGurn, independent Tom Wells and Republican Ted Yoho debated on Thursday evening at Santa Fe College during the Candidate Forums event, moderated by David Tegeder.

 

Ken McGurn (D)

After being tasked with redeveloping downtown Gainesville about 20 years ago, Democrat Ken McGurn wants to take on Florida’s District 3 as a congressman.

McGurn, a political newcomer and the founder of McGurn Management Co., is running to represent a slew of 13 North Central Florida counties, including Alachua County.

Among the primary tenets of his platform are job creation, environmental sustainability and community-college affordability.

Since he founded McGurn Management, he has brought more than 1,000 jobs to East Gainesville — where there was once rampant crime and high poverty — and the surrounding areas of the city, he said. In the process, he increased the tax rate in East Gainesville 80 percent, he said.

“I’ve been helping people for years,” he said. “Let me keep doing it.”

McGurn said he feels like under his leadership, Alachua County can become the solar capital of the South. By bringing in solar-panel manufacturing and training people to do installation, both job creation and climate change can be addressed while also lowering costs for residents.

To help students attain the skills needed to earn a successful job, McGurn also supports making community college free for a student’s first two years, he said.

“I’m really sensitive to student loans,” he said. “It took me years to pay off my student loans, and even the president struggled with his.”

As a local business owner, McGurn said, he has stood by his values while supporting job growth in the community, putting trust in its residents along the way.

“I’m a developer and a Democrat, and I’m proud of the projects we built,” he said.


 

Tom Wells (Ind)

In a political arena traditionally saved for major parties, independent candidate Tom Wells hopes to give Alachua County residents a third option come Election Day.

Running to represent District 3, the key aspects of his platform include raising the minimum wage, protecting the environment and implementing socialized health care.

“I think at a federal level I want to help the whole world,” he said.

Wells, a first-time politician and ardent supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaign, said he believes both political parties are equally ineffective because Congress is controlled by corporations and cannot fully serve the American people until the system is reformed.

Wells has also voiced concerns with the U.S. military’s participation in for-profit wars. He said in order to help veterans, the country should simply avoid war.

“Let’s first work for our veterans by having less veterans and putting them in less questionable circumstances,” he said.

In regard to environmental policy, Wells said politicians need to prioritize curbing global warming and transitioning to sustainable energy. He has criticized hydraulic fracturing and the Sabal Trail pipeline, a natural-gas pipeline that will run underground from Alabama to Florida, cutting through a sliver of Alachua County.

If Wells does not win in this election, he said he plans to run again in 2018, possibly as a Democrat.

“My issues are with my grandchildren growing up,” he said.


 

Ted Yoho (R)

After living off food stamps as a UF student and later opening his own veterinary clinic, Republican Ted Yoho found a calling in local politics.

Yoho, an incumbent state representative in Congress for Florida’s District 3, is running to continue representing 13 counties, including Alachua County, facing Democrat Ken McGurn and independent candidate Tom Wells.

The other counties he would represent are Bradford, Union, Clay, Dixie, Columbia, Levy, Lafayette, Madison, Marion, Gilchrist, Suwannee and Hamilton.

As a fundamentalist Christian and a supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Yoho believes in family values and the American dream, a dream he said is under attack by increased government spending and programs.

He considers the need for well-paying jobs, responsible immigration reform and improved benefits for veterans and first responders to be among his highest priorities.

“I believe in the greatness of America,” he said. “We’ve strayed from that, and I want to put it back.”

Before becoming involved in politics, Yoho put himself through school after his parents divorced and lost their house, he said. He and his wife lived on food stamps until they both graduated from UF. Until running for Congress, Yoho had no political experience.

After 30 years of owning and working in his own veterinary clinic, Kanapaha Veterinary Services, he began to notice political problems like immigration, the national debt and social security inefficiencies plagued the nation, he said.

“I went from the cowpen to Congress,” he said. “I didn’t go there for a job. I went up there for a cause.”