Updated, March 17 at 9:30 p.m.: Incumbents David Arreola and Harvey Ward easily held onto their Gainesville City Commission seats in voting on Tuesday, while local attorney Reina Saco won elected office for the first time.
The results are unofficial and will need to be certified during the March 27 meeting of the Alachua County Canvassing Board.
Ward won District 2 with 68% of the vote over challenger David Walle, and Arreola claimed District 3 by a slimmer margin with 59% of the vote over Jennifer Reid, who ran and lost against Mayor Lauren Poe last year. Ward and Arreola will serve terms ending in August 2022.
Saco won the At-Large 2 seat over candidates Scherwin Henry, Gabe Kaimowitz and Paul Rhodenizer with 51% of the vote, narrowly avoiding a runoff election that would have been held April 28. Henry came in second with 31%. Saco’s term runs until January 2025.
The city is moving to August elections beginning in 2022 with voting for the mayor’s seat, as well as Districts 2, 3 and 4. It’s a move expected to improve perenially abysmal turnout; Tuesday’s turnout total of 26% was the highest since 2016 when almost 40% of registered city voters elected Poe mayor. Poe won reelection in last year’s off-year election with less than 13% of the vote.
A cloud hung over the day’s in-person voting, though, with the coronavirus global pandemic growing in Florida. Ward spoke of it after his victory.
“The most important thing in front of us right now is making sure that we have all the tools to be supportive during this COVID-19 crisis,” he said, “and that we make good choices moving ahead to deal with the economic impacts of it for what will be months and years into the future.”
Saco promised her early assistance, too.
“I’m going to keep monitoring what our city is doing right now with the pandemic to make sure that we are addressing the members of our community most at need,” she said, “but also just keep vigilant until I’m sworn in in May and be as involved as I can until May.”
Arreola said he already has in mind those he was just re-elected to serve.
“How do we address the recovery? This is going to hurt a lot of people,” he said. “We’re going to have some really hard times, but we’re going to make it. We’re resilient.”
Original post, March 17 at 7:26 p.m.: Polls closed at 7 p.m. with unofficial results scheduled to begin appearing shortly thereafter from the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office. They are visible below.