Local

Tuesday’s Gainesville City Commission Elections

Gainesville residents will head to the polls this Tuesday to vote in City Commission elections.

Incumbent Gigi Simmons is running against Desmon Duncan-Walker for District 1 City Commissioner, while incumbent Gail Johnson faces Gabriel Hillel for City Commissioner At-Large.

7,608 Gainesville voters have already cast their ballots in this nonpartisan election with 6,583 voting by mail and the remainder early voting. 78.7% of voters have been registered Democrats and 11.1% are registered Republicans.

Early voting ended March 13, but Gainesville residents can still vote on election day, which is Tuesday March 16 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at a local precinct voting location.

Voters who have already received their vote-by-mail ballots must ensure that their ballot is received by 7 p.m. on election day or it will not be counted.

All registered Gainesville voters are eligible to vote for City Commissioner At-Large, but only those residing in District 1 will be eligible to vote for District 1 City Commissioner.

FPR Candidate Guide: Gainesville City Commission Elections

At-Large:

Gabriel Hillel

Gainesville voters may be familiar with Gabe Kaimowitz, who is running for City Commissioner At-Large under the name Gabriel Hillel.

He is an 85-year-old former attorney who was disbarred in 2016 after pleading a case with a suspended attorney’s license.

He told the Gainesville Sun that he does not expect to win in this election and will not be spending any money on the campaign.

Hillel advocates for stronger debate and dissent as well as government transparency and development for the east side of Gainesville. He stresses that the City of Gainesville continues to treat Black Americans unjustly and he questions the efficacy of the city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion.

A Florida Bar Association investigation in 2013 found that Hillel made disparaging remarks concerning the race, ethnicity and gender of other lawyers. In 2012, he filed a motion that included antisemitic slurs describing a Gainesville City Commissioner.

Hillel has been removed from at least one City Commission meeting for exceeding his time limit during public comments.

Gail Johnson

City Commissioner At-Large Gail Johnson has served on the Gainesville City Commission since 2018. An Eastside High School alum with a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Florida, she is now seeking reelection.

Before joining the City Commission in 2018, Johnson founded an arts and culture magazine in Brooklyn and started a catering company in Gainesville.

Johnson sits on the board of Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida, is on several committees for the National League of Cities, is a member of the Metropolitan Transportation and Planning Organization, is a founding member of the Local Progress Florida Organizing Team, and is the chair of the City of Gainesville’s Race and Equity Subcommittee.

With a platform focusing on equity, affordable housing and equitable development, Johnson was endorsed by the Gainesville Sun.

In an op-ed in the Gainesville Sun, Johnson wrote that the issues of affordable housing, gender and race equity that she ran to address in 2018 are still issues in Gainesville.

She also stressed the need to address the issues outlined in the 2018 report by the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research on racial inequity within Alachua County and to build a mutually beneficial rather than exploitative relationship between the University of Florida and the Gainesville community.

District 1:

Desmon Duncan-Walker

Desmon Duncan-Walker is a Gainesville native and founder of the community advocacy organization Gainesville Alliance for Equitable Development.

Duncan-Walker received her bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Bethune-Cookman University and her Master of Science in entertainment business from Full Sail University.

Now she is running for District 1 City Commissioner with a platform centered around COVID-19 resources, equitable development, historic-cultural preservation and the interests and needs of aging Gainesville citizens.

She serves as the Vice Chair of the Gainesville Community Reinvestment Agency’s 5th Avenue/Pleasant Street Advisory Board, the Cultural Coordinator of the A. Quinn Jones Museum and Cultural Center, and is a member of the Alachua County Branch of the NAACP. Duncan-Walker is also the host, writer and co-producer of “The Voice Radio Show,” and Praise and Worship Leader of Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church.

Duncan-Walker has raised $20,606.20 and $177.33 in in-kind contributions, more than any other candidate in either City Commission race.

Gigi Simmons

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of South Florida, Commissioner Gigi Simmons returned to Gainesville and the Porters neighborhood she grew up in. A former business owner, Simmons was elected to the Gainesville City Council for District 1 in 2018.

She is seeking reelection for another term.

During her time on the City Commission, Simmons led the creation of the educational program SKYBRIDGE, the development of increased senior recreation options in East Gainesville, the creation of the EGCTERI Education and Relief initiative for COVID-19 resources for East Gainesville, and the establishment of the Health Access and Equity Advisory Group.

She is a member of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, serves as Vice-Chair of the Florida League of Cities Transportation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, and is a member on the Florida League of Cities Resolutions Committee.

If Simmons is reelected, she will be the first City Commissioner for District 1 to serve two terms in nine years.

Featured image: The City of Gainesville will hold City Commission elections this week. Unedited image by Ebyabe used under a Creative Commons License. (https://bit.ly/3qHUBxT)

Check out other recent articles from the Florida Political Review here.        

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