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Arreola Upsets Incumbent Carter In District 3 City Commission Race, Warren And Ward Also Win

Harvey Ward Jr. celebrates with his campaign interns after winning the District 2 Gainesville City Commission race in Tuesday's general election. (Turner Street/WUFT News)
Harvey Ward Jr. celebrates with his campaign interns after winning the District 2 Gainesville City Commission race in Tuesday's general election. (Turner Street/WUFT News)

The votes are in for Gainesville City Commission seats in District 2, 3 and one At-Large seat. Polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, bringing new and old faces to the seats.

In District 3, David Arreola beat incumbent Craig Carter with 65 percent of the vote, in District 2, Harvey Ward Jr. cinched the three-way race and incumbent Helen Warren held her At-Large seat, defeating Jenn Powell.

Carter served one term in District 3, and blamed his loss to the now youngest city commissioner, Arreola, on his Republican Party affiliation. After Carter made his concession speech less than an hour after polls closed, Arreola made an entrance to his shared victory party with District 2 winner Ward.

Ward's win narrowly avoided a run-off election, just passing the majority plus one vote needed to win.

The At-Large race ran latest and closest, with Warren beating Powell by 54 percent. Powell, a force behind Gainesville's Bernie Sanders campaign, made her voice heard, despite the loss.

Voter turnout in Gainesville was 11.88 percent, with 10,471 ballots cast, down from the 12 and 15 percent turnout of pervious off-election years, according to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections website.

District 3

David Arreola beat incumbent Craig Carter with 65 percent of the vote, cementing his place as the youngest city commissioner in Gainesville history, according to Arreola.

Arreola arrived to his watch party turned victory party at Blue Gill Quality Food after results were announced.

As the first full Mexican-American Gainesville City Commissioner elected, Arreola said he feels humbled.

“The work that I have been assigned by the people tonight is truly something that should humble any man or woman,” he said. “I feel very grateful, and I’m looking forward to getting started.”


His first major plan, he said, is to look at the way the city handles development.

“I made a big issue about growth management, and so I’m going to be taking a good hard look about how Gainesville is going to continue growing and how we can really fulfill what I think is our destiny to continue to be a university town with a more diverse professional set of jobs that are available to our citizens,” said Arreola.

At Carter’s watch party, approximately 40 people gathered around green tables to watch the results of the election come in. Just 20 minutes after polls closed, Carter’s opponent, David Arreola, led 1,211 votes to 633.

“It’s not looking good,” Carter said to a few of his friends.

Shortly before 8 p.m., Carter gathered the attention of his crowd to give a concession speech.

“Obviously, I didn’t win,” he said. “And for that, I’m sorry.”


Choking back tears, he thanked his supporters, his wife and the volunteers who helped campaign for him.

Ultimately, Carter blamed his loss on his Republican affiliation.

“I had a terrible ‘R’ next to my name, and that’s what cost me the race,” Carter said.

At-Large Seat

Incumbent Helen Warren won the second At-Large commissioner seat, beating opponent Jenn Powell with 54.63 percent of the vote.

Warren, who held an election watch party at First Magnitude Brewery, anticipated a close race for the commission seat.

“In the middle of your friends and they’re telling you you’ve got their support, you know there are other people that are out there with their group of friends, too,” Warren said. “It just kept me and my team focused on, we need to get people to vote, and we need to make people understand what the issues are.”


With another three years, Warren plans to generate new ideas, including some to connect the University of Florida and the Alachua County School Board to provide after-school activities to for youth.

“You really just get started with three years,” Warren said. “A lot of the community isn’t aware of some the problems that we have. When things are going good for you, you don’t realize where other people are having a lot of challenges, and that is where I want to be able to put together some new services.”

Warren also seeks to continue her efforts in raising living wages to $15, despite initially voting against it.

Jason Stanford, Warren’s campaign manager, was happy with the results and the overall campaign strategy.

“We went into this knowing we were going to run a positive campaign,” Stanford said. “We weren’t going to be negative, we weren’t going to criticize other people for participating in the process, and we ran on our record, and I think that resonated in people.”


Stanford also applauded Warren's opponent, Jenn Powell.

No candidate should have to run unopposed,” Stanford said. “I am glad she participated in the process, and I hope she will participate again. She is needed in this town.”

Mayor Lauren Poe agreed, and believed Warren had a great opponent in Jenn Powell.

“We have not seen the last of Jenn Powell. I’d love to see her run for something in Gainesville or Alachua County in the near future because she just represented herself very well.”

Powell was happy with her entirely volunteer-run campaign.

"I'm feeling awesome," Powell said. "I mean, I got into the race late, we had the entire city to cover, I won a lot of precincts. So I'm really proud of the campaign that my volunteers ran."

District 2 Seat

Harvey Ward Jr. prevailed Tuesday night in the three-way race for the District 2 seat, obtaining 50.57 percent of the vote with 2,261 votes.

Gainesville native, Ward Jr., faced off with Perry Clawson, a retired colonel and former small business owner who previously sat on the city’s police and firefighters' pension board, and Sheryl Eddie, a Gainesville resident of 27 years who has worked with the Alachua County Children’s Alliance.

Ward gave credit to his staff and the Gainesville community for his victory.



“I hired the right campaign manager and brought the right folks on board,” Ward Jr. said. “I had great support from the community and that’s all a candidate can ask for.”

Ward said he enjoyed his campaign experience, going out and talking to as many Gainesville residents as possible.

“It was a lot of fun to work this campaign, we talked to thousands and thousands of voters and I appreciate the people of Gainesville supporting me.”


Addressing a room a supporters after his loss, Clawson thanked the crowd for their efforts attempting to get him elected.

“Everybody that’s come, thank you so much,” Clawson said. “Things don’t always turn out the way we wish they did, but I wouldn’t have changed anything, how we ran this race. We ran a good, clean race, we gave it our all, we stuck to our campaign plan.”

Clawson made a point about how even though the commission races are nonpartisan, his party affiliation affected his chances to win.

“It just shows you that if you run in Gainesville and you don’t have a “D” after your name, it’s hard to win," Clawson aid. “The only thing I could’ve done differently is run as a Democrat to maybe have a better chance to win."


As for what’s next, Clawson plans to take it easy.

“I’m going to go back to being a retired guy,” Clawson said. “I’ve been a retired colonel for 7 years now, so I’m going to go back to being retired. I’m going to try and get back on the city’s firefighters' and police pension board that I’ve been on.”

For more information on each candidate, see our candidate profiles here, in our 2017 Gainesville City Commission Election Guide.


Baylor Cherry is a reporter for WUFT News and can be reached at 727-916-0142.
Turner F. Street is a reporter for WUFT and can be reached at turners@ufl.edu or 904-382-9272.
Molly Donovan is a reporter for WUFT News and can be reached at 850-819-0721 or news@wuft.org.
Virginia is a reporter for WUFT News.