Hinson-Rawls elected; Poe, Skop face runoff
Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 8:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 12:20 a.m.
Yvonne Hinson-Rawls was elected city commissioner in Gainesville's District 1 on Tuesday and will replace the term-limited Commissioner Scherwin Henry after defeating the candidate Henry backed by more than a 2-to-1 margin.
Meantime, the citywide At-large 1 contest will be decided in four weeks in a runoff between former District 2 Commissioner Lauren Poe and Nathan Skop, a former member of the Florida Public Service Commission, as Poe didn't surpass the 50 percent threshold needed to avert a runoff.
Turnout for Tuesday's District 1 race was 14.8 percent, while 16.9 percent of 71,961 eligible voters cast ballots in the at-large race.
Hinson-Rawls, 64, was born and raised in Gainesville and got two degrees from the University of Florida before starting a career in education, retiring as a principal in Miami in 2004 and moving back to her hometown.
Backed by Mayor Craig Lowe and three of the six members on the City Commission, Hinson-Rawls received 1,126 votes, 54.3 percent of the total, and will begin her three-year term in May. District 1 serves much of east Gainesville and sections of north Gainesville.
Ray Washington got 479 votes, or 23.1 percent, while Armando Grundy, who was supported by Henry, got 22.6 percent.
In the At-large 1 contest, Poe received the most votes, but he will go to a runoff election Feb. 28 against Skop. Poe finished Tuesday night with 36.2 percent of the vote, nearly 12 percent more than Skop.
The crowded field in the at-large race made a runoff likely, as the six other candidates split up the other 40 percent — Darlene Pifalo got 12.1 percent, Donna Lutz got 10.9 percent, James Ingle got 9.7 percent, Richard Selwach got 3 percent, Dejeon Cain got 2.4 percent and Mark Venzke got 1.5 percent.
Both Poe and Skop said they were encouraged by the results.
"We wanted to go out and make as good a showing as we could with a really strong field, and I think we did that," Poe said after celebrating at Tall Paul's Brew House downtown.
Skop, at a party at Gator's Dockside, recalled Poe's re-election effort in 2011, when he finished with the most votes in the first round of voting but ended up losing to Todd Chase in a runoff.
Noting that nearly 64 percent of the voters didn't vote for Poe on Tuesday, Skop said, "That shows that people want choices, and they want alternatives to the current composition of the commission."
Skop, 44, an attorney, said the upcoming runoff will be a "referendum on change versus status quo."
"The differences between us are crystal clear," Skop said.
Poe, 41, an associate professor of economics and government in the dual-enrollment program at Santa Fe College, said there was a "sharp contrast" between the two, adding, "My version of change is not dismantling the progress that we have made."
A big difference between the two is their positions on the 30-year deal the city has to purchase biomass power, which Skop is opposed to, although he approved the building of the plant while serving on the PSC.
Poe voted for the deal when he was on the commission and stands by that decision.
He said the election results Tuesday show "Gainesville is concerned about a lot more things" other than biomass.
It was the only reason Washington has said he got into the District 1 race.
He has called the deal a pending financial catastrophe that will force utility rates to skyrocket, while Hinson-Rawls has been supportive of the city's biomass plan.
She showed up at the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office Tuesday after the results had already come in, getting applause from her supporters.
Washington and his young son offered Hinson-Rawls congratulations. He said he was disappointed in the results but felt proud that he pushed the biomass issue to the forefront and would heartily support Skop in his race.
When asked about his showing, Grundy said: "I'm happy with what our campaign achieved. We ran a clean campaign."
Hinson-Rawls said a major goal of hers heading into City Hall is to increase job-training programs.
She also said she hopes to restore a sense of unity that crosses racial and ethnic lines, something that she observed in her formative years in Gainesville but said she doesn't see anymore, calling the community "incredibly divided."
Contact Chad Smith at 338-3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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