Lowe, Braddy square off

Character comes up as 4As PAC sponsors candidate forum, endorses Gainesville mayor

Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe, left, and former city Commissioner Ed Braddy debate during a forum sponsored by the African American Accountability Alliance at the Alachua County Health Department in Gainesville. After the forum, the 4As endorsed Lowe.

BRAD McCLENNY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:11 p.m.

Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe and challenger Ed Braddy both had to answer a question about how important they think character is to voters at the beginning of a forum that later included questions about their plans to better the quality of life in Gainesville, especially in east Gainesville.



What: The Gainesville mayoral runoff with Mayor Craig Lowe and challenger Ed Braddy.
When: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. April 16.
Where: Gainesville precincts.
Information: Call 352-374-5252 or visit www.votealachua.com.

Held Monday night at the Alachua County Health Department, the two-hour forum was sponsored by the political action committee of the African American Accountability Alliance of Alachua County. Nearly 75 residents attended the forum.

It ended with the group voting to endorse Lowe for mayor of Gainesville in the April 16 run-off election. The group endorsed former city of Gainesville Commissioner Scherwin Henry in last month's election, in which Braddy received 38.44 percent, or 4,649 votes, and Lowe garnered 36.53 percent, or 4,418 votes. Henry finished third, with 17.02 percent, or 2,058 votes. The runoff is being held because no candidate received a majority of the vote.

Rodney Long, a founder and president emeritus of the 4As, moderated the forum and posed the question about character after both candidates had given their opening statements.

"The question I need to ask both of you is should your character, based on your prior arrests for DUI, be considered by the voters when they vote on April 16?" Long asked.

Braddy answered first, saying he regretted being arrested for DUI in 2006, and added that voters should take into account his and Lowe's DUI arrests. He said voters have the right to consider everything about a candidate.

"I think there are two ways to look at the electorate," Braddy said. "You have voters who believe in one strike and you're out — you mess up and you're out — I'm not going to get that vote, and that's fine," Braddy said. "But most people I know and I have spent time with will tell me that America is a very forgiving country and believe in second chances."

Lowe apologized for his poor judgment on March 21 when he was arrested for DUI in the Monteocha community.

"I regret the decision I made, and I am willing to accept responsibility for that," said Lowe after beginning his remarks by agreeing with Braddy that voters have the right to take into consideration his arrest when they vote.

On Monday, Lowe accepted entrance into an 18-month deferred prosecution program that will include him performing 50 hours of community service and completing an alcohol evaluation program.

The rest of the forum dealt with a variety of issues in which the candidates voiced their contrasting philosophies on various issues.

Long asked Braddy and Lowe why should voters in east Gainesville, who voted overwhelmingly for Henry in the March 19 election, vote for them. Long also said the voters who cast their ballots for Henry will more than likely determine who wins the runoff.

Lowe touted his support of the Eastside Community Redevelopment Board and the jobs being created at Innovation Square on SW 2nd Avenue near the Porters community, saying the jobs created there will have a multiplier effect on the Gainesville economy.

Braddy said the multiplier effect Lowe mentioned is akin to "trickle down" economics, meaning that money generated by the technology jobs created at Innovation Square will eventually get to lesser skilled workers in the community because the skilled workers will spend money in the community.

Braddy said east Gainesville residents will benefit if city government gets out of the business of "picking winners and losers" and make it easier for small business owners to do business in the city. He said regulatory barriers that prevent entrepreneurs from taking their ideas off the planning table and into existence should be removed.

The two candidates also shared divergent views on the future of public transportation. As he has throughout the campaign, Braddy said he will fight to make sure every three out of four new transportation dollars be designated to improving bus service in east Gainesville, while Lowe said he supports a balanced approach to transportation that considers the past, present and future of public transportation in Gainesville, including bus rapid transit, thought by some to be an innovative, high-capacity, lower-cost public transit solution that can significantly improve urban mobility.

Long also asked the candidates about their views on the 30-year biomass contract the city signed to purchase electricity from the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center. Braddy said he will fight to terminate the contract, negotiate new rates and return more than $20 million to GRU customers who are paying a fuel adjustment fee that is slated to pay for future fuel costs.

Lowe said he stands by the decision the City Commission made several years ago to enter into the biomass contract.

Although Braddy didn't get the 4As endorsement, he said he was thankful for another opportunity to present his positions to the public.

"I think it was a good debate and I think it was a good turnout, and it is good to see we are back on the issues," Braddy said.

Lowe said he was happy to have the endorsement.

"I think this is a very important endorsement and I think it speaks to the wishes of the community to continue the progress we have made and to expand that progress so that it is inclusive of our entire community," Lowe said.

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