2018 GENERAL ELECTIONS GUIDE – Alachua County

The Midterm Elections are happening NOW. Vote by mail ballots were sent out last week and should be in voters’ hands by the week of the October 8th (you can request or track your ballot here).

You can skip the reasoning/background and see my recommendations here. Whatever you do, make sure you vote. You can vote early from Monday, October 22nd until Saturday November 3rd from 9 AM – 6 PM at:

You can also vote on election day, Tuesday November 6th from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, and you can find your voting location here. I’ve changed the order of the ballot around since the bottom of the ballot needs more attention.

These are my views and in no way reflect those of any organizations that I’m associated with.

Referendums:

Constitutional Amendments:

There’s a long list of proposed amendments, which need to pass by 60% of the vote to become law. The League of Women Voters has gone through a good explanation of all 13 of these but briefly:
Amendment 1: Grants an additional $25,000 homestead exemption for property tax. This loss of revenue would cripple local governments from being able to provide services. VOTE NO.

Amendment 2: Would permanently cap at 10% the maximum value increase for non-homestead properties. This includes places like vacation homes,, vacant land, and office parks. This is something that is already in law but is set to expire in 2019. If it’s allowed to expire local governments would be allowed to collect taxes on the true value of these properties. VOTE NO.

Amendment 3: Restricts the expansion of gambling. I might catch flak for this as a prude, but I think gambling should be outlawed due to predatory practices exploiting people with addictions. Anything to slow it down is good to me. VOTE YES.

Amendment 4: Restore voting rights for most felons who have served their time. VOTE HELL YES.
Amendment 5: Would require a 2/3 majority to to increase taxes. This is another way to protect reactionary tax cuts for generations. VOTE NO.

Amendment 6: Changes victim rights and the way the courts interpret laws. Most of the rights are already in state law and the changes to the courts are problematic. VOTE NO.
Amendment 7: Supermajority requirements for raising tuition, imposing student fees, and gives death benefits to first responders. While I’m for free public education, that’s not an option and rich kids should pay right now. VOTE NO.

Amendment 8: The Supreme Court removed this from the ballot. It was a bad amendment anyway. VOTE NO.

Amendment 9: Prevents some offshore oil drilling and vaping indoors. This would only stop oil drilling 9 miles off the West/South coast and 3 miles off the East coast. No one wants to drill this close to shore because there’s no oil there. The Deepwater Horizon, which devastated beaches, was over 100 miles off the Florida coast. There is a fear that this being voted down will be a sign to that Florida doesn’t care about the environment, but I think the opposite is true. Passing a do nothing amendment will placate many people into thinking something was actually done. As far as vaping indoors, that’s douchey and can be outlawed via statute. VOTE NO.

Amendment 10: Creates a counterterrorism unit in the state and mandates a bunch of stuff on counties. We don’t need this. VOTE NO.

Amendment 11: Removes an antiquated anti-Asian law that says immigrants can’t own land. It would also allow the state legislature to apply sentencing reform on those already convicted of crimes. VOTE YES.

Amendment 12: Bans elected officials from being lobbyists while in office and for 6 years after leaving office, as well as other anti-corruption measures. A major issue with this amendment is that it’ll be very hard to change once enacted. But this is the only way to get something like this passed, since there’s no real mechanism for voters to directly pass legislation and elected officials won’t pass this themselves. John Dewey famously said that government is the shadow cast by big business.This bill wouldn’t end that relationship but would throw a wrench in it. VOTE YES.
Amendment 13: Bans Greyhound racing. Greyhound racing is awful. Just awful. VOTE YES.


County Referendums:

Children’s Trust of Alachua County
Would set up a special taxing district with a board who will oversee the funds. The funds would go towards postnatal care, childcare for working families, after school programs, etc. Vote yes unless you hate children.


Half-Cent Sales Surtax to Improve School Facilities

Schools in Alachua County are not doing well, and it’s mostly because of cuts from Tallahassee politicians (isn’t Senator Perry awful?). This tax would add a half cent to your sales tax and the money itself would would go to school infrastructure. Two schools in East Gainesville will be completely remodeled but every school is getting numerous projects. Vote yes on the half cent sales tax because children deserve better schools.


Municipal Referenda on Privatizing Gainesville Regional Utilities

This is one of the most important things on the ballot. It was placed here by Representative Clemons and Senator Perry. Aren’t they just the worst? Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) has a sign above its headquarters that reads “Owned by the People it Serves,” which is a problem for reactionaries. Right now GRU is controlled by elected Gainesville Commissioners and this referendum seeks to change it to an appointed, unaccountable, board. The endgame is privatization of this publicly owned utility. Since GRU is owned by us, we can move beyond profit, which is the narrow goal of privatized utilities. Gatornet, the GRU owned fiber optics network, is signed onto the Net Neutrality pledge while Cox fought against it. GRU has moved away from mountaintop removal coal, added solar feed in programs, and built a carbon neutral biomass plant, all of which cut into the profits of GRU. Vote no on the GRU referendum because people should have democratic control of our utilities. Also Keith Perry is awful and he wants this, so don’t let him have it


City of Gainesville Charter Amendment City Commission Elections and Terms of Office

This referendum is years in the making. This would move city elections from the current March/April to the August November cycle. It’s important because turnout for city elections hovers between 10% and 15% outside a presidential primary. It would also save a lot of money for the city and time for voters. Vote yes for better elections.


Local/Regional Races

County Commissioner District 2

Marihelen Wheeler is a retired union teacher, who is good on the environment and great on workers’ issues. She’ll also the only woman on the 5 member board of County Commissioners. Vote for Marihelen Wheeler because she earned it.


Justice of the Supreme Court and District Court of Appeals

It’s weird that there’s an option to recall or retain judges. The judicial branch is supposed to be outside of politics but that has changed a lot in recent years (see the successful recall of the Judge Aaron Persky in the Stanford rape case). This is the moment we live in and we should vote no on the Rick Scott Appointments.

Vote yes for Alan Lawson.

Vote no for Rick Scott appointee Harvey Jay.

Vote no for Rick Scott appointee Stephanie W. Ray.

Vote Yes for Brad Thomas.

Vote no for Rick Scott appointee Kemmerly Thomas.

Vote no for Rick Scott appointee Allen Winsor.


Circuit Judge 8th Judicial Circuit Group 8

David Robertson is a former military lawyer and current Department of Transportation chief counsel. His job is under threat at the DOT because of the large number of affairs he has had with subordinates. Obviously, he’s now working tirelessly to get the whistleblower fired.
Meanwhile Gloria Walker is the managing Attorney and Director of Litigation at 3 Rivers Legal Services which services the abused, disabled, elderly, and poor. Read her story, cry little, give her campaign a few dollars, and then go vote for her. Vote for Gloria Walker because she’s the most qualified for the job.


County Judge Group 2

I like both of the candidates for this seat. Craig DeThomasis is a local defense attorney who firm has represented people facing political persecution in Alachua County. And Meshon Rawls is a distinguished UF Law professor who has spent much of her career defending juveniles in the criminal justice system. I’ll be voting for Rawls but I will still be very happy if DeThomasis wins the set.


School Board District 3

There’s are some very vocal people who really, really dislike Gunnar Paulson. At times he can be abrasive and I understand why people would focus the perceived failures of the current school board on him. He’s been good for the teachers and paraprofessionals in many ways though. Nonetheless I understand why some people are not supporting him in this election.

What I don’t understand is why anyone is supporting April Tisher. She is a Republican who wants more cops in schools and can count anti-education Florida Senator Keith Perry and the John Birch Society as her supporters. I don’t understand how progressives could vote for a reactionary as opposed to voting for Paulson or leaving the ballot blank.


Soil and Water Conservation District Group 3

Seldom do you see an actual fascist face off against an actual socialist. But this is 2018 and we have Chris Rose II, a neo confederate jerkwad, running against comrade-in-arms Kaithleen Hernandez. Soil and Water is a nonpartisan election so you sometimes get the Green Party, Communist Party USA , Freedom Party, or the the Libertarian Party of Florida, but this is a first for me. Vote for Kaithleen Hernandez because she will slow down the big agriculture development of North Central Florida. As a bonus, you also get to not vote for a fascist.


State and Federal Races

State Senator District 8

There’s not enough negative things that can be said about the current Senator in District 8, Keith Perry. He’s tried to preempt our wage theft ordinance (spoiler: his business has been found guilty of wage theft), has kneecapped our local hiring preference which helps out young construction workers in certified apprenticeship programs (spoiler: his business benefited from this), and he recently pushed a bill that would lead to the privatization of Gainesville Regional Utilities (spoiler: his donors would benefit from the privatization). He’s pushed tax cuts that have benefited him and his rich friends, was the deciding vote on HB 7069 which is leading to the closure of Hawthorne Middle/High School, and has put school privation on steroids. And he’s terrible on Stand Your Ground, is opposed to marijuana decriminalization, and and has offered little more than lip service for felon re-enfranchisement. To put it bluntly, Perry sucks.

But this is a rough district for anyone to win. Obama carried it in 2012 by 1.2% and Trump won in 2016 by 0.2%. Yet Perry walked away in 2016 with 53% of the vote (Rod Smith was a blue dog democrat former State Attorney who was extremely problematic). This seat is all the more difficult now that former Gainesville Commissioner Charles Goston decided (or was coached) to run without any party affiliation as a giant fuck you to white liberals, unions, black women, and the entire coalition who helped get him out of office.

Kayser Enneking is someone many progressives are predisposed to distrust. She’s a well educated, rich, white woman, born into wealth, who few movement activists knew much about before she decided to run for office. I was prepared to vote against Perry more than vote for her. But she’s shown up for things that matter to this community. She’s been to living wage meetings at the Civic Media Center and Renters’ Rights meetings at the Alachua County Labor Coalition offices. She’s also followed up in advocating at UF for OPS workers and put work in on causes that progressives care about. She’s also a powerful woman breaking into the almost-all-boys-club of state politics and is a physician who been a consistent advocate for access to healthcare. Vote for Enneking because she’ll push for a living wage and housing rights inside and outside the Florida Senate.


State Representative District 21

Vote for Jason Haesler because he’ll be a good Representative. And let’s be honest, if you got this far on the blog you’re already voting straight Ds.

He also has a sweet beard.


United States Senator:

US Senator Nelson is not a progressive by any stretch of the imagination. He hasn’t signed on as a cosponsor or said he would support Senate Bill 1804, the Medicaid For All Act. He’s not great on Palestine and is generally pro-empire (imperialism, war, etc.). He was part of the Clinton “New Democrat” coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats who cut back social spending to anemic levels and domestically waged war on black and brown people. It’s important that we do not whitewash Nelson’s politics for expediency. But as Trump showed us – it can get worse.
Rick Scott is one of those most vile politicians in the history of Florida. He’s a millionaire who oversaw one of the largest medicaid frauds in history and bought his way into his seat. He continues to make himself and his friends richer at the expense of working people. His formula of tax cuts, school privatization, social spending cuts, and the over policing of people of color would be brought to DC. Vote Bill Nelson for US Senate because he’s not Rick Scott.


Representative in Congress District 3

Congressman Ted Yoho is just awful. Most recently he pondered why the Kavanaugh accusers didn’t come out sooner while claiming Roy Moore’s charges were bogus (link). The list of things he’s said and done is so absurd it’s hard to believe he’s a real person. Hell, he said said only landowners should be allowed to vote in 2014 and was still elected. Twice.
Yvonne Hayes Hinson is a former City of Gainesville Commissioner who lost to Goston in 2015. She was good on her three years on the city commission but it’s an uphill battle against Yoho. Fivethirtyeight gives her a less than 1 out of 100 chance of winning this strongly conservative district. Nonetheless, vote for Yvonne Hayes Hinson because she’d be a good Congressperson.


Governor and Lt. Governor

There’s a real opportunity for Florida to elected a progressive Governor with Andrew Gillum. The Miami native, who grew up in Gainesville, is the current Mayor of Tallahassee. He’s called for a $50,000 starting salary for teachers (paid for by taxing the rich). He’s an environmentalist, wants to reign in Stand Your Ground, and stop private prisons. While not directly under investigation, his administration has a lot of baggage due to corruption in local politics. And of course he’s also a progressive black man and the far right will use any dog whistles they can.

Ron Desantis won his primary in large part thanks to support from Trump. After winning the nomination he couldn’t wait a full 24 hours before starting the racism by calling on voters not to “monkey up” the election by voting for this “articulate spokesperson for Socialism”. And this is a theme he’s used throughout his campaign. Scare white people away from Gillum by calling him a gay socialist criminal. Vote for Gillum/King in November unless you’re a racist. In that case, how’d you find this blog?


Attorney General

The Florida Attorney General is a very important position. There’s high profile things they can do like sue the Trump like sue the Trump administration over family separations, but most of their work is in state. Of particular interest to me is the prosecution of violations to the state’s minimum wage law. When we were working on the Alachua County Wage Theft ordinance we called the Attorney General’s office to see what data they had and found that they were unaware that they had this responsibility.

Sean Shaw has committed that, if elected, his office will start prosecuting wage theft violations, loosen regulations on marijuana, and hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in the opioid crisis. He also has one of the most progressive voting records in the Florida house and has been a strong supporter of public schools. Vote for Sean Shaw because we need someone to keep the bosses who steal our wages in check.


Chief Financial Officer

Jeremy Ring is a millionaire, an early employee at Yahoo, and your run-of-the-mill technocratic Democrat. He was lukewarm while in the Florida Senate, even becoming one of the few Democrats allowed to chair a committee in the Republican controlled chamber. That said, he’s mountains better than the Republican running, Jimmy Patronis.
Vote for Jeremy Ring because you don’t know what the Florida CFO does but you’re pretty sure you don’t want a Republican doing the job.


Commissioner of Agriculture

This is a pretty important position with a lot of say over consumer protections. Of most interest to me Is Niki Fried’s positions on deregulating medical marijuana and taking on the NRA. Matt Caudwell is an unimpressive white dude who thinks that wearing ridiculous bow ties has prepared him for one of the most important elected positions in Florida.

Vote for Nikki Fried because she’ll help bring smokable medical marijuana to Florida.


2018 Straw Hat Ballot

2018 Gainesville Elections Guide

Gainesville City Elections are underway! Vote by mail ballots were sent out last week and are already in voters’ hands (you can request or track your ballot here).

You can skip the reasoning/background and see my recommendations here. Whatever you do, make sure you vote. You can vote early from Saturday, March 10th until Saturday, March 17. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 9 AM – 5 PM, and Tuesday & Thursday 10 AM – 6 PM at:

You can also vote on election day, March 20th from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, and you can find your voting location here.

Two City Commission seats are up this year, District 1 (D1) and At-Large 1 (AL1). AL1 represents all of Gainesville while D1 is the Eastern part of Gainesville (map).  60% of registered voters in D1 are non-white, compared with 40% in AL1. D1 is also the only district in Gainesville with a majority non-white population making this seat vital for representation of communities of color.


At-Large 1

Commissioner Harvey Budd is running for re-election which means he gets to be judged on his actions over the last 3 years. Most relevant to me is when Commissioner Budd voted against living wage increases for City of Gainesville workers (link). He eventually changed his vote, but was one of only two commissioners who later voted against a living wage increase for part-time city workers (link). He also voted against the purchase of the GREC power plant, which is expected to lower the average electric bill by 10% (link). Just last year, he wanted to develop the Weiss property (the largest undeveloped tract in Gainesville), instead of conserving it, which was one key reason he did not receive an endorsement from the Sierra Club. He also held the Gainesville Votes initiative hostage as he was worried people like him wouldn’t be able to be elected if turnout was higher. (link).

The thing is, all of these progressive initiatives got done regardless of Commissioner Budd. Hell, he even agrees with many of the things he’s voted against. He wanted to pay a living wage to city workers, just not the way that the other City Commissioners or activists (including 2015 candidate Budd) wanted. He also wanted to purchase the GREC power plant to lower utility costs; he just didn’t want to pay the purchasing price that the rest of the commission agreed to. He supported moving City elections to November but only if there was an instant runoff, which isn’t currently viable for legal reasons, as had been previously explained to him. His one vote has been an unnecessary complication for progressive causes in Gainesville. At best he’s been a bad dealmaker and at worst an obstructionist. Many of the progressive organizations which supported him in 2015 are either supporting his opponent or staying out of this race.

Gail Johnson is a breath of fresh air in the race for At Large 1. Not only would it be great to have a woman of color on this mostly white (5 out of 7) and mostly male (6 out of 7) commission, but more importantly she would do a great job. Her platform is solid, she has the momentum to beat Budd, and honestly, I can’t wait to work with her to get progressive legislation passed. I expect her to win by double digits.  A vote for Gail Johnson is a vote for progress.


District 1

Commissioner Charles Goston has been in office for 3 years. He’s a former union president and owner of Black College Monthly magazine His record in office has been mixed. Two recent actions  which upset me are that he came out against requirements that rental properties meet a basic level of energy efficiency, and he published a wildly inaccurate anti-union article in his publication. For the most part he’s been decent on issues that matter. But as we say in the South, he’s more hat than cattle. He’s know for railing against institutional racism in the city, but has done very little to dismantle it. His boasting has led to him being fact checked by the Gainesville Sun in January and February. His inaction in the city has also prompted two well qualified challengers.

Tyra ‘Ty Loudd’ Edwards is an community organizer through and through. She’s an activist who bleeds progressive politics. Edwards attends the leftist meetings, isn’t afraid to be “Loudd” to authority figures, and is someone I consider a comrade in the fight for economic and racial justice. If you’re reading this blog you most likely have met her at the Civic Media Center, the Porters Community Center, or on TV holding the City Commission accountable for their actions (and often inactions) in East Gainesville. Simply put, she’s earned your vote by putting her actions where her politics are. Edwards has only raised ~$1,200 but isn’t running a traditional campaign. She’s knocking on every door she can and focusing on turning out youth of color. Activists candidates have attempted nontraditional campaigns in the past but, to my knowledge, none have been successful.

Gigi Simmons is another strong candidate. She’s been on a lot of boards, understands how the city government works, and is very active in liberal causes. She’s been endorsed by the Florida AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, Human Rights Council, Zero Waste Gainesville, and the Gainesville Citizens for Active Transportation. She earned these endorsements because she’s very impressive in her depth of knowledge and her resolve to address problems facing East Gainesville. She’s raised ~$5,000 to Gostons ~$8,000 which puts her in a place where she can run an effective traditional campaign.

In order for someone to be elected to office they need 50% +1 of the votes. With District 1 being a three way race it’s very likely that this will go to a runoff on April 17th. Vote for Tyra ‘Ty Loudd’ Edwards or Gigi Simmons on March 20th. Both would be great City Commissioners and you will likely get a chance to vote for one of them again in the run off.


Alachua County Labor Coalition Questionnaires

While the ACLC doesn’t endorse I found these questionnaires very useful.

2018 Gainesville Sample Ballot

Podcast: National Women’s Liberation – Gainesville Chapter

For the fifth episode of The Straw Hat Podcast we sat down with Kerri Audette and Erica Bales from the National Women’s Liberation – Gainesville Chapter to talk about fake women’s clinics, why they’re harmful, and what’s being done to stop them locally.

You can subscribe on Google Play, iTunes, or Stitcher. If there’s any interviews  or content you think would be good to cover for future episodes email us at info@thestrawhat.org

Podcast: Gainesville Anti-Fascist Committee

For the fourth episode of The Straw Hat Podcast we sat down with Jay from the Gainesville Anti-Fascist Committee to talk about what fascism is and what’s being done to combat it in the North Central Florida area. Are you curious about the so called violence of AntiFa or what the organizing around the recent Spencer protest looked like? Here’s your chance to get answers from the source.

You can subscribe on Google Play, iTunes, or Stitcher. If there’s any interviews  or content you think would be good to cover for future episodes email us at info@thestrawhat.org

Podcast: Connected Gainesville and Access to Internet in Gainesville

For the third episode of The Straw Hat Podcast we sat down with Gainesville City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos and Connected Gainesville member Bryan Eastman to talk about  internet access in Gainesville. We’re looking at why we pay the most in the state for some of the slowest internet, who has access, why there’s almost no ultra fast internet, and what’s being done about it.

You can subscribe on Google Play, iTunes, or Stitcher. If there’s any interviews  or content you think would be good to cover for future episodes email us at info@thestrawhat.org

Podcast: A Conversation on Hurricane Irrma With Gainesville Commissioner Harvey Ward

For the second episode of The Straw Hat Podcast we sat down with City of Gainesville Commissioner Harvey Ward to talk about the city’s response to Hurricane Irma. We took a deep dive into what it’s like inside the Emergency Response Center, what the city did well, how GRU prioritizes who gets power restored, what actually happened with GRU drinking water, and what we can do better in the future.

You can subscribe on Google Play, iTunes, or Stitcher. If there’s any interviews  or content you think would be good to cover for future episodes email us at info@thestrawhat.org

Podcast: Parents Against Corporate Takeovers

We’re trying out a new podcast about politics in and around the Gainesville area. You can subscribe on Google Play, iTunes, Stitcher, or Sound Cloud. If there’s any interviews  or content you think would be good to cover email us at info@thestrawhat.org

This episode we talked with Katy Burnett from Parents Against Corporate Takeovers who is helping lead the fight against a mega, for-profit charter school coming to South West Alachua County. Recorded on 8/25/2017 at the Alachua County Labor Coalition.