Braddy, Lowe in runoff; Wells re-elected

Randy Wells, center, with daughter Aleida Wells, 8, celebrates winning the City Commission District 4 race while at The Top in Gainesville on Tuesday.

Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 8:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.

The race for Gainesville mayor will continue on another month.

Tuesday evening, former City Commissioner Ed Braddy and incumbent mayor Craig Lowe emerged from a six-candidate field to advance to an April 16 runoff.

In the City Commission District 4 race, incumbent Randy Wells won a second term.

Turnout for Tuesday's election was 14.92 percent. Of the city's 81,847 voters, 12,215 cast a ballot.

In the six-way race for mayor, Braddy received 4,636 votes, or 38.43 percent, according to the preliminary results. Lowe received 4,406 votes, or 36.52 percent.

Tuesday night, Braddy said his campaign would keep its focus on pocketbook issues and working to make sure that Gainesville is an affordable place to live and do business.

On the campaign trail, he has opposed the biomass contract, the city's establishment of a fire assessment fee and the plans to develop a bus rapid transit system with a projected long-term price tag in the range of $300 million.

In the wake of the recession, City Hall "should be tightening its belt more," Braddy said.

"Our message is good," he said. "We think our message resonates."

Lowe said the runoff would offer "two distinct sets of positions on the future of the city of Gainesville."

Out campaigning, Lowe has focused on Gainesville's economic gains of recent years as MindTree and Silver Airways came to town and Prioria Robotics stayed here and expanded.

Those economic gains, Lowe said, are "based on a sound foundation of quality of life" that includes protection of the environment and neighborhoods and a broad anti-discrimination policy.

Over the next month, Braddy and Lowe now have to woo some of the 3,000 voters who cast their ballot for someone else or some of the approximately 70,000 who did not vote at all.

While he finished with the most votes Tuesday, Braddy said he continues to see himself as the "underdog" moving ahead.

"We have to see if our ceiling is 38 percent or our floor is 38 percent," Braddy said.

Of the six candidates for mayor, former Commissioner Scherwin Henry finished third with 2,058 votes or approximately 17 percent.

"I'm not sad," Henry said. "That's our system. I ran. They ran. We presented ourselves to the citizens and they chose two out of the six candidates. When you get in the race, you know everybody can't win."

Henry, who served on the City Commission from 2006 to 2012, said his focus Tuesday evening was on spending time with his family and campaign supporters.

Henry said he had not given thought to whether he might publicly support Braddy or Lowe in the runoff or if he would seek office again.

Among other candidates in the mayor's race, former Airport Authority board chair Pete Johnson received 783 votes or approximately 6.5 percent. Mark Venzke received 128 votes or a little more than 1 percent. Donald Shepherd received 53 votes or just under half a percent.

In the District 4 race, Wells avoided a runoff with 1,115 votes or 53.63 percent of the votes cast. University of Florida student Alfredo Espinosa received 545 votes or 26.21 percent. Mac McEachern, who served on the City Commission from 1981 to 1987, received 419 votes or 20.15 percent.

"I'm absolutely honored to get an opportunity to serve for one more term," Wells said.

Asked what his objectives would be in a second term, Wells said he wanted to take "a couple of days to recharge my batteries" before discussing priorities for the next three years.

Wells said the voters he spoke with on the campaign trail supported the city's investments in land conservation and natural parks and renewable and solar energy programs.

The caveat on the energy programs, he said, is for the city to "keep prices reasonable."

As it stands, rate increases loom next fiscal year as the biomass plant comes online.

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