Mike Byerly gives a speech thanking everyone involved in the primary election process Tuesday night. (Daniela Prizont-Cado/WUFT News)

Mike Byerly Narrowly Holds Off Kevin Thorpe In Bid To Keep His Alachua County Commission Seat

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Mike Byerly supporters celebrated the Democratic candidate’s reelection as District 1 Commissioner of Alachua County Tuesday night.

Byerly was running against small business owner and Pastor Kevin W. Thorpe, who has served the Gainesville community for the past 15 years, as well as write-in candidate Captain Craig A. Herda. Byerly won with 1,259 more votes than Thorpe.

Carol Gordon
Byerly supporters Sherry Steiner, left, and Carol Gordon promote local elections. “We feel we have a voice,” Steiner said. (Daniela Prizont-Cado/WUFT News)

First Magnitude Brewery hosted a watch party Tuesday evening for Byerly and District 3 candidate Robert Hutchinson. About 100 locals sported their campaign shirts, pins and ‘I voted’ stickers at the brewery.

Among them was Carol Gordon, who talked about why she felt she needed to vote for Byerly.

“I think this is a particularly critical election because Alachua County is facing some challenges that we haven’t faced before,” Gordon said. “One of our primary focuses is on trying to protect our natural resources. If Byerly loses, that’s gonna be extremely difficult in the new climate with a new commission.”

Another supporter, Susan Nugent, also spoke about Byerly’s environmental platform.

“He’s got a long history supporting environmental issues in the county,” Nugent said. “I think if we have a good environment, we have good quality of life.”

Mike Byerly thanked those that made his campaign possible at the end of the night, emphasizing his appreciation for his volunteers.

“We feel good because we worked as hard as we could,” Byerly said. “This is my fifth campaign and I think we’ve worked longer and harder and had more people working with us to get over the finish line than we’ve ever had before and that’s the best you can do.”

Meanwhile, nearly 100 supporters of Thorpe gathered at the Last Chance Banquet Hall in Gainesville.

Besides Thorpe, supporters of these candidates also went to the hall:

  • Larry McDaniel, who lost to incumbent Robert Hutchinson for District Three County Commissioner by nearly 25 percent
  • Juliun Kinsey, who came up short by 24 percent to 12-year incumbent Eileen Roy for School Board District Two
  • Kim Barton, who prevailed by nearly 68 percent as the first black Alachua County supervisor of elections

When the final numbers went up, Thorpe said he still felt great given the amount of support from the community throughout his campaign.

“We got millennials involved in this process. We got a lot accomplished,” he said. “We brought attention to issues like roads, education, vocational training.

“Now, it becomes the responsibility of the community to demand that these requests become reality.”

Throughout the night, his supporters gathered on red, white and blue tables. Thorpe said a blessing before the crowd ate barbecue chicken legs, cookies, and other food.

He was all smiles as he greeted Gainesville City Commissioner Craig Carter Tuesday evening.

“I hope tonight’s your season,” Carter told Thorpe, shaking his hand, before the numbers came in.

As the votes from precincts trickled in, Thorpe at times trailed Byerly by nearly 10 percentage points.

Sheryl Bennett, a local minister, hoped for the best. At least 80 people changed their party affiliation to Democrat to vote for Thorpe, she said. “He would be a good bridge between two factions of the community,” she said.

Thorpe plans to continue advocating for struggling families and keeping young students motivated for education, he said.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, and I’m not the kind of person who can sit by and allow those injustices to take place,” he said.

Thorpe, who ran in 2014 against Ken Cornell for County Commission District Four, said he’s open to future opportunities in office in Alachua County.

“It’s still quite fresh, it’s election night, but for the amount of folks who came out and participated in this process,” he said, smiling. “We’ll see what the future holds.”

About Oriana Bravo

Oriana is a WUFT reporter who can be contacted by email at oribravo1@ufl.edu or Twitter at @oridbravo

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