As election nears, Lowe has raised most money in mayoral race

Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 5:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 5:41 p.m.

Gainesville’s mayoral candidates will use the final two days of the campaign to try to reach voters through a variety of means in a final push before Tuesday’s election.

Meanwhile, early voting turnout may top that from the last stand-alone city election in 2011 as 892 ballots had been cast through Saturday. Early voting will continue Sunday downtown at the County Administration Building, 12 SE First St., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The final financial reports for the campaign show that incumbent Mayor Craig Lowe topped the chart in fundraising.

Lowe on Saturday was at India Fest, a popular celebration of Indian culture, and said he plans to close out the campaign by continuing what he has been doing.

“Talking to the voters of Gainesville and letting them know about our message,” Lowe said. “We have a very organized effort.”

Lowe has collected $36,840 and has spent $29,478. Lowe reported $11,635 in donations from the previous report on Feb. 23.

Second in fundraising is former City Commissioner Ed Braddy, whose contributions totaled $27,510 with expenditures of $25,147. Braddy slightly outpaced Lowe in the final reporting period with $12,000 in collections.

Braddy said Saturday his fundraising met his goal to enable him to reach voters.

“I feel good about that,” he said. “The next two days will be voter contact — taking every chance to meet voters. We have people canvassing and making phone calls.”

Peter Lars Johnson, a former member of the Gainesville Airport Authority making his first run at elective office, ended the financial campaign in third place with $13,915 in contributions. He has spent $9,940.

Johnson said Saturday he plans to attend a Catholic charity event and spend the rest of his pre-election time trying to contact as many voters as he can.

“I feel I’ve gotten a real education in the process. Now it is up to the voters to decide,” Johnson said. “I’ve done the best I could as a novice politician.”

Former City Commissioner Scherwin Henry wasn’t far behind Johnson with $13,346 in contributions and $11,563 in expenditures.

Henry said he plans an advertising media blitz in the final days.

“I’m at peace,” Henry said. “I’ll continue to share the message that I’ve shared from the beginning, and I’m excited about the opportunity — being a hometown fellow.”

Lagging far behind financially are Mark Venzke with $141 and Donald Shepherd Sr. with $100.

In the City Commission District 4 race, incumbent Randy Wells is tops in contributions with $10,240 followed by former Commissioner W.E. “Mac” McEachern with $4,185 and University of Florida student Alfredo Espinosa at $2,177.

Elections Supervisor Pam Carpenter said at the close of Saturday’s early voting that 892 ballots had been cast with Sunday still to go. The total number of early votes cast in 2011 was 976.

Among those voting Saturday was Brian Niemann, who brought his young daughter, Annagrace, with him.

“I’m traveling all next week and wouldn’t be able to vote, so I came out today,” Niemann said. “We try to take advantage of early voting.”

Absentee ballots collected totaled 3,479 as of Saturday.

Carpenter said that based on early and absentee voting, turnout could reach 20 percent for the election.

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