The five-day qualifying period for upcoming City of Gainesville elections ended Friday at noon, with City Commission At-Large 1 and District 1 seats on the ballot for elections in March.
The election is March 20. Candidates had to file required paperwork and pay a qualifying fee of $327.30.
Five candidates are on the ballot. Incumbents Harvey Budd and Charles Goston are up for reelection for At-Large 1 and District 1, respectively. Both were originally elected in spring 2015. Gigi Simmons and Tyra “Loudd” Edwards are hoping to beat Goston for his seat, and Gail Johnson will challenge Budd.
For Harvey Budd, reducing economic disparities among Gainesville communities and protecting the city’s environment and neighborhoods are most important. If re-elected, he plans to use his experience as a former certified public accountant to help reduce disparity.
“It’s been that way for so long that it becomes the norm, and that’s not correct,” Budd said. “What’s interesting is that I have the skill set with my financial background to actually do something about it… Other people can talk and have good ideas. I can execute, close on the deals.”
Charles Goston was elected to represent District 1 through a campaign that emphasized improving the east side of Gainesville.
Goston said that he feels good about his past three years as commissioner, citing accomplishments such as stopping GRU Friday cutoffs, which occasionally left people without power through the weekend, and securing a $200,000 grant from the Florida Division of Emergency Management to renovate the Martin Luther King Jr. Multipurpose Center. The center will become an emergency shelter by the 2018 hurricane season, which runs from early June to late November.
Goston plans to continue improving the east side of Gainesville should he be re-elected. Adding medical centers, restaurants and improving overall enterprise are some of his goals.
“When I’m dead and gone, these entities will be here for the people, and that’s what I worked toward,” he said. “It’s about them.”
Gail Johnson, Budd’s challenger for city commissioner at-large, is a single mother and owner of a local catering company, delicious.delivered.
After Donald Trump’s election, Johnson was inspired to run for her community and for her 8-year-old daughter, Zora. She considers her candidacy an active resistance to the Trump agenda. She hopes to reduce economic disparity in Gainesville and work for affordable housing if elected.
“I feel like as a city we’re going to have to make some really tough choices,” Johnson said. “There’s the business of running the city, which I’m completely capable of doing, but in these times there’s kind of an added dimension to everything.”
She continued, “So that’s why I’m running – to be able to make those decisions for myself, my community and my daughter.”
Johnson has raised about $14,000 to Budd’s $7,000, according to campaign finance records.
As for District 1, there are two challengers to Goston: Gigi Simmons and Tyra “Loudd” Edwards.
Gigi Simmons is a fourth-generation Gainesville resident from the Porters community, which she described as “not a desirable community to live in growing up.”
After graduating from the University of South Florida and returning home in 2006, Simmons saw that things hadn’t improved. This inspired her to get involved, initiating improvements such as the Summer Heatwave Program.
Simmons, too, wants to reduce economic disparity in Gainesville, citing University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research’s recent report as a basis for improvement. The report found, among other disturbing facts, that black poverty is greater in Alachua County than in other areas of Florida and the U.S.
Despite her dedication to the candidacy, Simmons doesn’t identify as a politician.
“I’m just a regular person that saw a need and stepped up to the plate,” Simmons said.
Tyra “Loudd” Edwards, the other challenger for the District 1 seat, moved to Gainesville from New Jersey 25 years ago. She too has gotten to know District 1 over time, hosting meetings with local black communities while working her day job in the accounting office of Rooms To Go.
Edwards’ platform entails “inclusion for economic sustainability, equity for affordable housing and justice for all.” She hopes to work toward bringing into District 1 more self-sustaining jobs, grocery stores, affordable housing options and improved relations with law enforcement.
Edwards said that she’s proud to see so many women in this year’s race.
“It means being empowered,” she said of being a woman in politics. “It means nurture. It means making sure that our neighborhoods get what they deserve.”
These are the District 1 fundraising totals as of the end of the qualifying period:
- Charles Edward Goston: $5,971.60
- GiGi Simmons: $3,330.00
- Tyra ‘Ty Loudd’ Edwards: $770