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Gainesville Votes 2020: At-Large 2 City Commission Guide

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Registered voters in the City of Gainesville will decide on Tuesday, March 17, who will help make decisions in city government in the coming years.

Anyone living in the city can decide between Scherwin Henry, Gabe Kaimowitz, Paul Rhodenizer and Reina Saco. Incumbent Helen Warren, who has served two three-year terms since 2014, is term-limited out of the seat this year.

Below is a short guide to each’s candidacy to help you make a choice.

Scherwin Henry

Who he is

Henry is a Gainesville native and Lincoln High School graduate whose senior class went through desegregation. He then graduated from Santa Fe College and the University of Florida, working as a senior biological scientist until his retirement five years ago. He was a founding member of the East Gainesville Development Corporation and the East Gainesville Development Task Force. Among other community involvement, he also previously served on the Gainesville City Commission for two terms in District 1 from 2006 to 2012, representing the city’s east side. He previously ran for mayor in 2013 and lost.

Why they’re running

The main issues of his campaign are housing and downtown development. He also wants to focus on solving East Gainesville’s decades of political neglect.

Key platforms

Lowering GRU rates, working collaboratively with leaders in the homeless community to develop solutions.

Who’s given money to his campaign

Henry got his campaign off the ground with a $1,550 loan to himself in the fall, but has since earned over $6,500 in contributions from 75 different businesses and individuals. They include State Sen. Keith Perry and the African American Accountability Alliance (4 A’s) political action committee.

What his campaign spent it on

Of the $5,535 spent as of Feb. 14, the single largest expense was more than $1,400 to buy television advertising on WCJB. He’s also advertised on a pair of local radio stations and spent hundreds of dollars on printing expenses.

Gabe Kaimowitz

Who he is

A Gainesville resident since 1992 and frequent attendee of city commission meetings.

Why he’s running

He says he wants to return Gainesville to its “Butterfly City” status that he says ended in 2017. He spoke of other reasons including election integrity, the city’s relationship with others around the world and racial equity.

Key platforms

He says he’s not seeking any votes at all but rather is in the race to push for the butterfly city status.

Problems he wants to solve

Returning the butterfly city status.

Who’s given money to his campaign

No one.

What his campaign spent it on

Nothing.

Paul Rhodenizer

Who he is

Ran a local business called Jay’s Bridal for 25 years after earning a degree in business management.

Why they’re running

“To represent the people rather than special interests.”

Key platforms

He is against the city’s handling of GRU’s biomass plant purchase and “out-of-town developers” who build mid-rise developments next to single-family neighborhoods.

Problems he wants to solve

“Diversity needs to be more than just about race, gender and religion. We need diversity of ideas on our city commission and I believe I am the best candidate for the job.”

Who’s given money to his campaign

More than 20 different businesses and individuals have kicked in a total of $2,255 as of Feb. 14, notably from former Alachua County Commissioner Susan Baird, former Gainesville Mayor Mark Goldstein, and frequent City Commission public comment speakers Jim Konish, Debbie Martinez and Brian O’Brien.

What his campaign spent it on

The majority of his $866 spent to date was on printing to have his blue “Tall Paul” signs and other material around Gainesville. Rhodenizer does not have a campaign website, though he does have a Facebook page.

Reina Saco

Who she is

Born in Cuba in 1990, her family left shortly afterward during the 1994 rafter crisis. During her family’s exodus, she went to Panama and was teargassed in a camp before making it to Miami with her family. She described her path toward law school at the University of Florida as one fraught with racism on the way to a career in public service. She now works as an attorney in immigrant and homeless communities in the Gainesville region.

Why she’s running

As an attorney, she feels a city commission seat is the way in which she can make the most impact. She says her campaign has intersected with her day job and helped her understand issues the city is facing.

Key platforms

Access to more affordable housing and increased protection for Gainesville’s immigrant community, the homeless and victims of domestic violence.

Problems she wants to solve

Housing insecurity, unsustainable growth and affordable housing.

Who’s given money to her campaign

Saco leads the At-Large seat race with $12,026 raised so far and also has the most contributions coming from outside of Gainesville of any candidate currently running. Among those living in Gainesville, notably Gainesville City Commissioners David Arreola, Adrian Hayes-Santos, Gail Johnson and Harvey Ward and Alachua County Commissioners Robert Hutchinson and Marihelen Wheeler have contributed to her campaign.

What her campaign spent it on

Katy Burnett, a campaign consultant as well for Arreola and Ward, received more than $1,700 of Saco’s $5,020 in expenses so far. She’s also spent more than $400 on Facebook advertising and $360 on her campaign website.

Editor’s note: Audio interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity. Paul Rhodenizer declined to answer questions and provided only a statement about his campaign plans.

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