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SPECIAL ELECTION: Gainesville commission candidates voice interest in at-large seat

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 10:18 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -All registered Gainesville voters can cast their ballot in the upcoming special city election that’s scheduled for November 16. Three candidates so far have to plan to earn the public’s vote in just two months’ time.

“And I think I bring that experience to the table,” said Cynthia Chestnut.

With city, county and state leadership experience, Chestnut said her background in Gainesville government makes her the most qualified for the at-large seat.

“This particular seat is the seat where I started when I first started in politics in Gainesville, was this seat. So it’s like coming back home and coming back home to get things back in order,” said Chestnut.

After a conversation with Commissioner Gail Johnson about her resignation, Chestnut said she knew her voice was needed on the dais. Chesnut said if she were a commissioner, she would appoint a task force to mitigate the recent city resignations.

“What is going on? What do we need to do to improve the situation for our city? Because at the end of the day all of that impacts economic development,” mentioned Chestnut. “Who wants to come to a city that appears to be in such turmoil?”

RELATED STORY: Former Florida representative Cynthia Chestnut considers Gainesville City Commission run

Scherwin Henry once served as district one Gainesville commissioner which he said gives him an upper hand this election. Henry lost the 2020 race for the seat at-large seat Reina Saco holds.

“For me, its going to be able to communicate my message,” said Henry. “And I think with the climate that exists now, I think there are a number of citizens that did vote for her, that are having second thoughts and realized that I was the better candidate.” He added that forward-thinking would have created a different situation within Gainesville city hall given the resignations.

“The officer that was hired maybe wasn’t the best officer for this time because really this election is not about what has been,” mentioned Henry. “This election is really about where are we going.”

The only candidate to actually file so far is Matt Howland who used to teach at Westwood Middle school in Gainesville. Howland said his time as a teacher, running a non-profit, working with the military and a desire to be a new face on the commission gives him the upper hand.

“I’m talking to voters right now and I’ve personally committed to knocking on over 5,000 doors by election day and that’s not an army of volunteers,” added Howland. “That’s me, out there engaging with the voters and I think the voters will appreciate and award hard work.”

How would Howland handle the recent city resignations? He said getting back to basics is his approach.

“No more fighting. No more stalemates. No more digging in our heels over individual priorities. Now is the time to come together with the sole purpose of getting things done for the whole city of Gainesville because that’s what an at-large seat does.”

People can still file to run for the at-large seat. The qualifying period for candidates starts Monday.

RELATED STORY: Gainesville city commissioners discuss special election date

The deadline to request a ballot be mailed to you for the November 16, 2021 Special Election is November 6, 2021 by 5 p.m. Mail-in ballot drop boxes will be available at the Alachua Supervisor of Elections Office and at Millhopper Branch Library during early voting Friday, November 12 through November 14 from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Once early voting has ended, Mail-in drop box will ONLY be available at the Alachua Supervisor of Elections Office during the following days and times:

Monday, November 15 from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (office hours)

Tuesday, November 16 (Election Day) from 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. (dropbox will be available during the same hours as voting at the precincts)

The mail-in ballot drop box at the Millhopper Branch Library will not be available after early voting has ended on Saturday, November 14 at 6 p.m.

Early Voting:

Friday, Nov. 12 through Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office

Josiah T. Walls Building

515 North Main Street, Suite 100 (first floor)

Gainesville 32601

Millhopper Branch Library

3145 NW 43rd Street

Gainesville 32606

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