In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, thousands of candidates from across the country — many from historically underrepresented groups — decided to run for all levels of public office.

This year is no exception. 2018 is on track to break records for the number of women filing to run for the House nationwide: In the two years leading up to the 2016 presidential election, EMILY’s list, a national political action committee that fundraises for Democratic women who favor abortion rights, received 920 inquiries from interested candidates. Since the day after the 2017 election, they’ve received more than 26,000.

And in Gainesville, for the first time in more than 20 years, three women of color — Gail Johnson for the at-large seat, and Gigi Simmons and Tyra ‘Ty Loudd’ Edwards in District 1 — are running for the city commission.

Despite the mess that is politics at the state and national level, we have a chance this election to pick leaders who don’t just reflect the city but have dedicated their lives to fixing its legacies of racism. Electing local leaders doesn’t fix the problem that is the White House, but it’s the best first step toward doing so. 

Now, get educated and go vote! •

Early voting began on March 10 and goes to March 17. You can vote early at the Supervisor of Elections office, the Millhopper Branch Library and the Cone Park Library. You can vote from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of early voting except Tuesday and Thursday, when the voting hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Election Day is Tuesday, March 20. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can find your polling location here.

Illustrations by our amazing art director, Ingrid Wu. 

 

Presenting: Your Esteemed Candidates

Gainesville City Commission At-Large 1

No matter what district you live in, everyone in the city limits can vote for the at-large seat.

Harvey Budd (incumbent)

Incumbent Harvey Budd was elected in spring 2015 and appointed mayor pro tem in May 2017. Budd graduated from the University of Florida’s Fisher School of Accounting in 1969 and attended UF’s Holland Law Center from 1970 to 1972. A registered CPA, throughout the 1970s, he worked as a city auditor for Lake Butler, Hawthorne and Micanopy. In the 1980s, he met his wife in Gainesville, and built and operated several local cable TV and radio stations.

  • Budd served as an accountant, treasurer or board member for numerous local non-profits.
  • Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization, which has consistently opposed the construction of a new highway to alleviate congestion on I-75.
  • Expressed interest in asking UF to reimburse the city for expenses related to the Richard Spencer event in October.
  • Wants Gainesville to join 17 other municipalities in Florida that have voted to ban conversion therapy for minors.
  • Supports providing paid administrative leave to part-time and temporary city workers in the of emergency work closures, like those experienced in fall 2017 due to Hurricane Irma.
  • Focuses on attracting businesses, primarily manufacturing jobs, to locate or expand in east Gainesville.
  • Co-founder of Gainesville’s only gay club, the University Club.

 

Gail Johnson

Johnson grew up in east Gainesville and attended Eastside High School and the University of Florida. Her grandparents moved from New York to Gainesville in the 1970s. As the president of the local chapter of the NAACP, her grandfather was instrumental in the creation of single-member districts, which brought more representation to minorities in Gainesville. A single mother, owner of a catering company and involved member of the community, Johnson said she was inspired to run for office after the 2016 presidential election.

 

  • Wants to decrease economic segregation in Gainesville by increasing access to affordable housing through inclusionary zoning and small housing development.
  • Supports a living wage for all city employees and plans to support legislation to favor contractors that pay their employees a living wage.
  • Supports providing “more robust” after-school care at public schools to improve the quality of life for working parents.
  • Wants to improve public transportation between east Gainesville and Butler Plaza to decrease travel time in order to aid working families.
  • Invited to speak at the Women’s March Anniversary event in Orlando in January 2018 on her work in public service and advocacy as a single mother and entrepreneur.
  • Supports the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative.

 

Gainesville City Commission District 1

Do you live in this district? 

Tyra ‘Ty Loudd’ Edwards

Edwards moved to Gainesville from New Jersey 25 years ago. She is a community organizer, activist and resident of the Porters community. In the past, she has hosted workshops to organize the black community in Gainesville.

  • Concerned about rampant gentrification primarily in Sugar Hill, a neighborhood in southeast Gainesville off Williston Road.
  • Campaigned on low-income affordable housing, self-sustaining job growth, local entrepreneurship, increasing grocery stores and improvement in community relations with law enforcement officers.
  • In a letter to the Sun editor, Edwards asked legislators to take stronger action on gun reform, not only for the sake of safer schools, but especially regarding the “impact gun violence has on struggling communities” in District 1.
  • Supports health coverage for gender-transition services and a ban on conversion-therapy for minors.

Charles Goston (incumbent)

Goston was elected in spring 2015. He was born and raised in the Sugar Hill neighborhood and says District 1 is his home. He graduated from Lincoln High School and attended Florida A&M University before he was drafted to serve in Vietnam. He returned to Gainesville to attend UF, graduating with a degree in telecommunications. 

  • Said his biggest goal if re-elected would be economic development in east Gainesville and creating more jobs.
  • Said that high GRU bills are one of the biggest problems facing working people in Gainesville, but voted against the purchase of the biomass plant in August 2017, which city officials said would reduce utility bills by up to 10 percent.
  • Called the RTS system an “insufficient form of transportation.”
  • Has maintained for several years that a Golden Corral is coming to Gainesville despite a lack of submitted plans or proposals.
  • The Gainesville Sun found multiple fact errors in a December campaign ad on the cover of his newspaper, Black College Monthly, including claims that he supported outcomes from city initiatives he actually voted against. In the ad, Goston also claimed to create the “black Chamber of Commerce,” which does not exist.
  • Website
  • February 2018 Gainesville Sun op-ed
  • Alachua County Labor Coalition 2018 Election Questionnaire
  • Video in which he discusses the history of racism in the Democratic Party
  • Did not respond to the Human Rights Council of North Central Florida’s 2018 election questionnaire
  • Endorsed by Phalanx Defense Systems, a ballistics development and armor safety products company, and Double Envelope, an envelope manufacturing company, two businesses he said he has helped bring and keep in east Gainesville.
  • Endorsed by the African American Accountability Alliance

Gigi Simmons

Simmons is a fifth-generation Gainesville resident, and has lived in the Porters community for over 40 years. After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology at University of South Florida, she moved back to Gainesville and has since opened her small business, Simmons Tax Services LLC, and started a non-profit organization for at-risk youth.

  • She has served on several boards in the Porters community and in greater Gainesville.
  • She initiated many East Gainesville community programs, such as back-to-school backpack drives, voter drives, health fairs and beautification projects.
  • Priorities include economic development, a community land trust for affordable housing, youth development programs and vocational education training;
  • Was named a “neighborhood hero,” by the Gainesville police department in 2012 and received an IMPACT award for her efforts on behalf of the Porters neighborhood.
  • Supports exploring a ban on single-use plastic bags, a plan to lower waste generation, food waste education and increasing the reuse and recycling of materials.
  • Part of a team that installed 50 free sunscreen dispensers throughout the City of Gainesville.
  • Supports health coverage of gender-transition services, and a ban on conversion-therapy for minors.