Take it from me, don't throw away your vote

Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 15, 2013 at 6:58 p.m.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I threw away my first vote for president.

I was too young to vote when Bill Clinton first ran, but that didn't stop me from writing an editorial endorsing him for my high-school paper.

When I had the chance as a college student to vote for Clinton's re-election, I was so disenchanted with him that I cast my ballot for a third-party candidate.

As I've gotten older, I've become less of a fan of protest votes. I don't have to tell anyone who lived through the 2000 election that such votes can have unintended consequences.

That brings me to Gainesville's current mayoral race. The Sun no longer endorses candidates and I live outside the city limits, so I don't have a horse in the race.

But I've been hearing from people who agree with Mayor Craig Lowe on many of the issues, but aren't enthusiastic about voting for him and looking for an alternative. I attended Santa Fe College's candidate forum Wednesday to get a better sense of the alternatives.

Ed Braddy's pitch of being modest in his ambitions has an appeal at a time of financial uncertainty for the city. But it's disconcerting that he takes pride in saying that he doesn't have a vision for the city's future.

I get that he's trying to make a point about not forcing his views on others, but that's a little disingenuous for someone who has worked as a right-wing radio host.

Scherwin Henry seems like an option for someone who likes Lowe's politics but not his style. Henry said that he would try to heal the fracture between the city commission and community.

But Henry's support of a costly downtown convention center is out of step at a time when there is so much concern about the biomass plant's fiscal impact.

Pete Johnson is a nice guy with a business background that provides a change of pace from the other candidates. He offered an interesting idea at the forum about the city buying the biomass plant to keep down rates, a welcome departure from the Fantasyland position that the city can walk away from the biomass contract without consequences.

But can Johnson actually win? It seems most people only know that he's the guy in the campaign posters with his sunglasses-wearing dog, a dog that's not even alive anymore.

Lowe can be thin-skinned when dealing with criticism, but some of his critics are unrelentingly negative about everything he does. While he takes too much credit for attracting high-tech companies to Gainesville, it's unfair to give him no credit at all.

It seems like left-leaning voters have a choice: hold their noses and vote for Lowe, or risk that they split the vote between the alternatives and allow Braddy to squeak through.

Despite problems with the biomass contract, Gainesville seems to be in a good position right now. The mayor is basically just a commissioner with a bigger bully pulpit, but it's an important job as the city pursues more companies to locate here.

I won't tell you who to vote for, but don't throw away your vote.

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