Qualifying for city elections begins Monday

The 3 seats on the City Commission have drawn 12 contenders so far


Published: Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 3:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 3:56 p.m.

Rarely have there been as many candidates signed up and dollars raised for Gainesville City Commission races before the first of the year than there were for the upcoming March elections.

Facts

Key dates for city elections

Monday
Candidate qualifying begins at noon and ends at noon Friday.
Sunday
University Park Neighborhood Association forum, 4 p.m., United Church of Gainesville, 1624 NW Fifth Ave.
Monday, Jan. 31
Human Rights Council of North Central Florida forum, 7 p.m., Pride Community Center of North Central, 3131 NW 13th St. Suite 62.
Tuesday, Feb. 1
Business Community Coalition forum, 4 p.m., Paramount Plaza Hotel and Suites, 2900 SW 13th St. Cost is $18 per person; seating is limited.
Sunday, Feb. 13
League of Women Voters of Alachua County forum, 1:30 p.m., Millhopper Branch Library, 3145 NW 43rd St.
Monday, Feb. 14
Last day to register to vote for March 15 elections.
Tuesday, Feb. 15
Gainesville Tea Party forum, 7 p.m., Gainesville Hotel and Conference Center, 7417 Newberry Road.
Monday, March 7
Early voting begins; runs through March 12. Locations and hours to be announced.
Tuesday, March 15
Election Day
Tuesday, April 12
Runoff elections held (if necessary).

Qualifying for three commission seats — an at-large seat, meaning it represents the whole city, and Districts 2 and 3 — begins today with 12 contenders signed up and at least $49,532.36 already raised among them.

The field will be set when qualifying ends at noon Friday, but candidates with any designs on winning have already gotten their campaigns in high gear.

It had been “frustrating to get people to pay attention and notice until the first of the year,” said Todd Chase, a first-time candidate running for the District 2 seat. “It was practically impossible to get people to ... really listen and understand, and I appreciate that because I run a company and I have a family as well.”

Now that it's 2011, the game is on.

All three races have a good deal of intrigue, and the money tells part of the story.

Since 2005, only current Commissioner Jeanna Mastrodicasa and now-Mayor Craig Lowe raised more before Jan. 1 for a non-mayoral race than Chase, Susan Bottcher, Thomas Hawkins, Robert Krames, Lauren Poe and Rob Zeller. Many times, candidates wait until January to even sign up.

“I think that looking not just at my race but all of them, this is going to be an expensive race,” said Poe, the incumbent for the District 2, representing northwest Gainesville.

In addition to Chase, Poe is up against Krames and James Ingle.

Ingle, who had raised $1,250 before the new year, all from labor contributions, kicked off his campaign Friday, waving signs and meeting with supporters over pizza.

With union ties, there is already a fundraising base for Ingle, an electrician, but he has to play catch-up.

As of the end of 2010, Chase had more than $3,600 in hand, Krames had more than $3,200 and Poe had more than $5,900.

The next finance reports are due Feb. 11, when candidates will get a clearer picture about the fundraising contest.

In his second political contest, Krames said he is content with where his campaign is financially.

“Being a marketing professional, I definitely know how to priortize whatever funding I get,” said Krames, who finished as runner-up to Mastrodicasa in 2009 with 25 percent of the vote in a five-way race. “A few thousands dollars' difference doesn't discourage me.”

In the at-large race, Dikassa Dixon and Don Marsh are challenging Thomas Hawkins, the incumbent, who had a substantial fundraising edge by the end of 2010.

He had about $7,230 in hand, while Marsh had about $1,103 and Dixon had $75. But Marsh was significantly out-raised by Lowe in last year's mayoral election and came up 42 votes short.

The District 3 contest is notable because there is no incumbent.

The current commissioner, Warren Nielsen, was appointed to the post in November after Jack Donovan resigned to run for the Alachua County Commission.

Donovan and the rest of the commission hoped to pick a replacement who had no intentions of running in the spring, and Nielsen doesn't.

That leaves a fairly wide-open race, with five candidates already lined up: Ozzy Angulo, Susan Bottcher, Jimmy Harnsberger, Ramon Trujillo and Rob Zeller.

Of them, only Angulo has run for office before — last year he finished fifth in the five-candidate mayoral race — but both Bottcher and Zeller have already raised relatively large amounts of money.

Zeller brought in $11,996.56, more than 24 percent of it from himself or the businesses he owns, while Bottcher raised $8,490, 26.5 percent of that coming from herself.

There is still plenty of time between qualifying and Election Day for momentum to change, and candidates will soon go through the gauntlet of forums, where they will be pressed about issues ranging from homeless services to job creation.

For now, they've got doors to knock on.

Contact Chad Smith at 338-3104 or chad.smith@gvillesun.com.

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