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Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn Eyes Run For Congress

Just a week after Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn was sworn into office for a fifth term, he’s considering entering the race for a U.S. House Representatives seat in Florida's 3rd District.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville, announced his retirement earlier this week. Since first winning office in 2012, he's represented the district covering Alachua, Bradford, Clay, Putnam, Union and part of Marion counties. His last day is Jan. 7, 2021.

“It’s the right time,” Guinn said. “I’ve been waiting for an open seat.”

Guinn said he had discussed his interest in the seat with Yoho for the past two years.

Guinn has been mayor since 2011 and the previous 12 years before that on the Ocala City Council. In September, Guinn took 59.1% of the vote in the citywide election defeating Barbara Fitos to continue holding office. Council terms are four years; the mayoral terms are two years.

“I wasn’t fortunate enough to be able to serve in the military, had some asthma as a kid and they wouldn't let me in,” Guinn said in a phone interview Thursday evening. “So, this is what this is a way for me to serve my country.”

If Guinn runs and wins in 2020, it would mean a special election. The Ocala City Council is meeting on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of holding a separate special election because the city recently had to block a winning council candidate from taking office.

Four other Republicans – Joe Dallas Millado, Matthew Raines, Judson Sapp, and Amy Pope Wells – have also filed for this open seat, which has been a Republican stronghold for more than a decade. Democrats Phil Dodds and Tom Wells are also running.

Guinn acknowledged controversial decisions made during his mayoral terms. These range from the declaration of a “Confederate Memorial Day” to a recent federal lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida that challenges arrests of homeless people based on the city’s strategy called "Operation Street Sweeper."

“All I'm concerned about is I'm doing the right thing and telling the truth,” Guinn said. “I've got no problem with fighting the fight.”

Guinn said he’s still going through the decision-making process and financial planning, with a formal announcement coming the first or second week of January.

Quan is a reporter at WUFT News who can be reached by emailing news@wuft.org or calling 352-392-6397.