With the upcoming election for Gainesville mayor today, Gainesville residents must choose the candidate they believe will be best fit for the position. The two final candidates vying for mayor are Ed Bielarski and Harvey Ward.
A debate took place between the two candidates on Oct. 25 at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, covering the topics of East Gainesville gentrification, the city’s multiculturalism, the issue of making Gainesville more walkable but safe, and the necessity for a reduction of gun violence. Throughout the debate, both Gainesville mayor candidates drew a clear contrast.
Tensions heightened throughout the debate, with Bielarski at one point accusing Ward of making a “show” out of the event.
In one instance, the candidates were asked how they would address housing costs and create good-paying jobs in Gainesville.
“Luxury student housing across Gainesville is taking away the nature of our community,” Bielarski said.
Ward responded that student housing is rather in a “fairly contained area” close to the University of Florida campus. Ward also suggested working with nonprofits to ensure affordable living for all.
Then, the candidates were asked how they will be more inclusive to immigrants in Gainesville and support residents who do not speak English in getting jobs. Again, the candidates diverted.
Ward emphasized the benefits that UF can provide for non-English speaking residents, while Bielarski focused on the negative effects of UF.
“UF students take a lot of jobs from folks who live here,” Bielarski said curtly.
One area where the Gainesville mayor candidates agree is the issue of gun violence.
“Gun violence doesn’t begin and end at the city limits,” Ward said.
Bielarski followed up in agreement. “I agree with Commissioner Ward,” he said. “It’s a supply issue of guns that are indeed coming from outside the area.”
At the end of the debate, both candidates were given two minutes for closing statements.
Bielarski focused on stopping the “war” on single family home zoning and championed policies of renewal.
Ward closed off on a different note.
“I am voting for my daughters and my interns and their generations and the generations that follow them,” Ward said.
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Featured image: Florida Political Review Gainesville mayor candidate graphic depicting Ed Bielarski and Harvey Ward, with photos from campaign and public materials. Image by Maria Varas.