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An annual event draws many different politicians to Alachua County

The crowd gives a standing ovation to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem.
The crowd gives a standing ovation to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem.

The aroma of slow-roasted pork permeates Legacy Park as guests, attendees and vendors alike make their way into one of the most important political gatherings in the state of Florida.

The Alachua County Republican Executive Committee (REC) hosts the Ronald Reagan Black Tie and Blue Jean Barbeque annually. For the last several years, this event has been held in the newly constructed Legacy Park Multipurpose Center in Alachua.

This year marked the 21st annual Black Tie and Blue Jean Barbeque and dawned a special guest appearance from South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who is considered a leading vice-presidential running mate for the Republican ticket in 2024.

The main objective of this dinner is to provide a platform for officials and campaigns to establish a base. Both experienced and emerging political figures have the opportunity to share their perspectives on national issues, opinions on Washington, D.C., strategies for better community engagement and dreams for the nation’s future.

Former Florida Gov. Rick Scott commenced the dinner Thursday evening, discussing his concerns on the ongoing debate of who should be the next Republican presidential candidate.

“How are you going to have an economy better than Trump? How are you going to make sure we are not at war and support our military? It’s a pretty tall task to beat Trump this year,” Scott said.

Governor Kristi Noem addressed the crowd last night, discussing her personal journey into a political figure. She capitalized on the narrative of a man’s world and how important she realized being a woman in politics was not only for her but for others as well.

“I had lived my entire life in a man’s world,” she said. “I’m the first female Governor of my state, and the political class is all the good ol’ boys.”

Noem said she was the first woman governor who was sworn in on the 100th anniversary of the right of women to vote.

She was given a standing ovation and opened the stage to district three’s congressional conservative Congresswoman Kat Cammack.

Cammack said she arrived at the Ronald Reagan Barbeque to address pressing matters that her constituents needed crucial insight about. She said she flew out of the District of Columbia earlier that day and was heading back that night yet wanted to share important information with her constituents of North Central Florida.

“I was in Washington today, and I left, and we still had no speaker. We were in limbo. I hear from people, I hear from you about how frustrated you are that no matter how many good people we send to Washington, that things just don’t seem to change,” she said.

She called this situation a “cultural shock,” and said there needs to be increased transparency and accountability in Washington.

Among the other political powerhouses was Emery Gainey, who was recently sworn in as Alachua County Sheriff on Oct. 2.

He is temporarily succeeding former Sheriff Clovis Watson after he experienced health problems earlier in the year.

Emery threw his hat in the ring and exclaimed the reason he should be the people’s first choice in the upcoming election.

“It’s not time for another experimental leader. We just had one of those, I will come as an experienced leader,” he said.

Along with officials and emerging leaders freshly starting campaigns are individuals paying for a ticket to hear what their elected officials are doing for their communities and some who are there to support their friends and family.

Christie Gordon, 55, volunteered with Republican campaigns and the Alachua County REC with her husband, Steve Gordon, numerous times, but has never attended their biggest event.

This year, however, she wanted to see why her husband was so interested in helping with the event.

“I needed to see what the commotion was all about for the last three years. Now I know,” she said.

Year-after-year, the Alachua County REC orchestrates an event that leaves the county with contemplations about what the election cycle has in store for them.

Republicans in black ties and blue jeans saw a red wave like no  other Thursday at Legacy Park.

Micah is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing