After the Gainesville commission primaries, two candidates earned clear majorities for District 2 and District 3 but were unable to avoid runoffs against the second-place positions.
For District 3, Casey Willits earned 49% of the vote. He needed less than 20 more votes to beat out Dejeon Cain and Patrick Ingle. Cain garnered 35% of the vote with Ingle pulling in 15%.
Heading into the runoff, Willits said he’s confident that his campaigning—emphasizing specific policy along with aspirational goals—will push him into office. He said the November election will allow higher voter turnout for a younger demographic.
“This means a lot of voters who may have been overlooked in past March elections are being asked to vote their values into office,” Willits said in an email.
For the August primary, 2,046 residents voted in District 3—12.07% voter turnout.
Willits works as a residency program coordinator at UF. He also serves as a committeeman for the Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee.
Cain said he is confident he can catch up to Willits’ numbers and that the next commission has a lot of work to do.
“Voter turnout is essential,” Cain said in an email. “Citizens in Gainesville are tired of being suppressed and oppressed by current policies, ordinances and decisions made by this commission.”
Cain serves as chairman of the Alachua County Affordable Housing Board and owns Fortitude Security, a Gainesville private security and patrol company.
In the District 2 primary, almost 10,000 voters cast ballots in a four-candidate race – approximately 38.76% turnout of eligible voters. Santa Fe College Police Chief Ed Book won 39.76% of the vote in August, while James Ingle, an electrician and union president, took 27.26%. Jo Lee Beaty, who has since endorsed Book, won 18.02%, and Michael Raburn captured 14.95%.
Book and Ingle said they’re hearing the same top issues from residents: single-family zoning and Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU).
“The decades of experience I have working in the utility industry and my time on the Alachua County plan board can bring much needed experience to the commission in both of these areas,” Ingle said in an email.
Ingle works as a journeyman electrician. He heads the Iocal chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Works (IBEW).
Both candidates have vowed to repeal the exclusionary zoning changes passed by the City Commission on Oct. 17. Cain, Ingle and Book all spoke against the elimination of single-family zoning at a rally before the vote.
Book said an unbalanced city budget is also a long-term problem. Without proper financial controls, he said Gainesville can’t care for its most vulnerable along with the city’s rank and file employees.
He added that increased voter turnout could only have positive outcomes considering the support he’s received from area law enforcement and long-term community support.
“Elections are about choosing the best candidate and I believe I am the best candidate for the job and committed to getting things done in partnership with others,” Book said in an email.
Ingle said he’s garnered wide-spread support. He said negative flyers paid for by Tallahassee political action committees show that he’s on the correct side of issues.
“When I look at the campaign we’ve run, our message, the experience I bring, the doors we’ve knocked, the voters we’ve reached, the time that my volunteers and I have dedicated to it, I’m pretty confident,” Ingle said about the upcoming election.
The District 3 seat is currently held by Commissioner David Arreola, and the District 2 seat is held by Commissioner Harvey Ward. Both commissioners have reached their term limit, but Ward is running for mayor. If Ward wins his run-off with former Gainesville Regional Utilities general manager Ed Bielarski, the new post will allow him to serve additional time on the commission.