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Vote Alachua: Your Guide to Local and State Candidates

National elections are easy to get caught up in. They’re always in the news, on your television and being talked about by your peers.

But, what about our local and state elections? In reality, your local representatives and public figures can probably make a bigger change in your everyday life. With election day coming soon, here are a few unfamiliar names you might see on your ballot.

State Senate

Keith Perry

Perry was elected into the Florida House of Representatives in 2010. Now, he is the 2016 Republican candidate for District 8 for the Florida State Senate.

According to Perry’s website, he wants to support a strong environment. He wants to make springs recovery a priority, and he has voted to ban unregulated fracking in Florida. He also wants to make creating jobs a priority. However, he does not believe the government should not be the ones creating the jobs. He thinks the government should create an environment that helps the job market thrive. He also supports education, cutting taxes, improving healthcare and rebuilding infrastructure.

According to WUFT, Perry was involved in an altercation in September, however, he was not charged.

Rod Smith

Smith has been a member of the Florida Senate, from 2001 until 2006. In 2006, Smith lost the Florida gubernatorial election to Congressman Jim Davis. From 2010 to 2013, Smith was the chairman for the Florida Democratic Party.

On his website, Rod Smith states he is interested in protecting drinking water. He wants to stand up to polluters that may harm local wildlife.

Smith also wants to support public schools. He wants to stand up to charter school corporations. He wants tax dollars to be spent on local schools, not private, for-profit ones.

Smith is also interested in growing the middle class, standing up for agriculture and protecting women’s healthcare. He also wants to protect the Second Amendment, and calls himself a proud gun owner.

Alachua County Commissioners

Mike Byerly

Byerly is a District 1 candidate up for reelection for the Alachua County Commission. He is a Democrat, and has served on the Board of County Commissioners.

Byerly voted to reject the Plum Creek’s plans to develop in rural areas. He also supports LGBT equality, protecting the environment and social programs in the community.

Byerly was endorsed by the Sierra Club, Women for Wise Growth, GVFL Citizens for Active Transportation, NCF Central Labor Council, Stonewall Democrats and the Human Rights Council of NCF.

This race was essentially decided on August 30, 2016. However, Byerly’s name will still appear on the ballot next to a write-in option.

Charles Chestnut

Chestnut served as mayor pro tempore for the City of Gainesville in 2003 through 2004, and in 2005 until 2006. He also served as a Representative for the Florida House of Representatives from 2007 until 2012. He is a Democrat and has served on the Alachua County Commission since 2012. He is up for reelection for the 5th District.

According to the Gainesville Sun, Chestnut wants to focus on creating jobs and a sound budget. He also wants to continue working on environmental projects and helping children and seniors in the community.

This race was essentially decided on August 30, 2016. However, Chestnut’s name will still appear on the ballot next to a write-in option.

Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson

Hutchinson has served on the Alachua County Commission since 2012. He is a Democrat for District 3, and is up for reelection.

According to his campaign website, Hutchinson stands for a variety of issues, one being the bringing economic development to East Gainesville. Mental health is also a priority for him. He chairs a committee on mental health and substance abuse. He says the police-involved shooting of Robert Dentmond is a “tragic demonstration” of the need to better coordinate with crisis intervention teams. Hutchinson has a variety of other issues he supports, such as transportation, homelessness and living wage.

This race was essentially decided on August 30, 2016. However, Hutchinson’s name will still appear on the ballot next to a write-in option.

Alachua County Sheriff

Sadie Darnell

Darnell has served as Alachua County Sheriff since 2006. She is a Democrat, and currently up for reelection.

According to her campaign website, Darnell is committed to mental illness. She calls mental illness “one of the greatest challenges facing society today.” She has made it a requirement for sworn members to be certified in Crisis Intervention Training to be eligible for promotion. Additionally, Darnell is committed to children. She has supported Teen Court Programs, and says efforts have been able to reduce juvenile arrests by 36% in the past 5 years.

She also supports women and has implemented programs to stop domestic violence, such as the Lethality Assessment Program.

Darnell also wants to work towards minimizing elder abuse, and ensuring the community is safe by recruiting ‘ethical and service minded individuals’ into the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO).

Jack Jacobs

Jacobs is the Republican candidate for Alachua County sheriff. According to his website, Jacobs served 15 years on the Alachua County Sheriff’s OfficeSWAT team. He retired as a lieutenant after 31 years with the ACSO.

Jacobs’ platform says he wants to provide “real solutions.” He wants to put more patrols on the streets, and increase coverage and service. He also wants to limit bureaucracy and allow officers to “exercise discretion in handling problems.” Jacobs wants to recruit directly from local educational institutions, and partner with the business community to advance technology within the ACSO. Jacobs also says he wants to communicate more directly with the community.

State Representatives

Elizabeth Porter – Republican for District 10

Porter was elected into the Florida House of Representatives in 2010. Before that, she served as chair of the Suwanee County Commission. She is up for reelection this November.

On her website, Porter states her values are conservative. She is an advocate for limited government and keeping taxes low. She believes that when government grows too large, it “jeopardizes our freedoms.” Porter also wants to create better access to educational opportunities, and prepare students for the workforce.

She is also interested in creating jobs in Florida, and wants to fight to make sure the state can attract business. Porter wants to defend constitutional rights, like the Second Amendment.

Porter has passed legislation to protect springs and “keep South Florida’s hands off our water.”

Jerry Lawrence Bullard – Democrat for District 10

In 1985, Bullard began a career in law enforcement. He later served in law enforcement with the Florida Department of Transportation’s Division of Motor Carrier Compliance, and then with Florida Highway Patrol. By his retirement from that in 2010, he had been ranked Captain. He also served as the statewide manager for the Florida Department of Transportation Statewide Scale Operations.

Bullard is a proponent of “strong and effective education.” He is interested in being a steward for natural resources in North Florida. Bullard also wants to expand economic growth in the region, providing “quality jobs and career opportunities.”

Bullard’s platform states “Public service is my life’s passion. If given the honor to represent my fellow North Central Floridians in Tallahassee, I will dedicate myself full-time to serving your interests,” and “I believe in time honored and sacred values of North -Central Florida; faith, family and community.”

Chuck Clemons  – Republican for District 21

Clemons has worked for private businesses as a Chartered Financial Consultant. He has served on the Alachua County Commission from 1996 until 2000. He was appointed by President George W. Bush as the State Director of USDA Rural Development in 2001. He currently serves as the Vice President of Advancement and Communications for Santa Fe College.

Clemons’ platform includes improving education. He is also a proponent of the Second Amendment, and has earned an A-rating from the National Rifle Association.

He also cares about agriculture, and “understands the importance of agriculture and what makes rural communities thrive.” Clemons also is an advocate for job growth and conservative values.

Marihelen Wheeler – Democrat for District 21

Wheeler is a former teacher who served 37 years in both public and private schools. According to the Gainesville Sun, she has previously run for Legislature and Congress.

Wheeler is an advocate for teaching students become “motivated learners,” rather than how to take a test. She also believes vocational school should be a more respected educational option.

Wheeler also wants to fight for Florida’s environment. She says she has worked with water conversation groups for the past 12 years, “in efforts to protect Florida’s inland and coastal waters.”

Wheeler has been endorsed by the Sierra Club Florida, Florida AFL-CIO, Florida Education Association, Democratic Women’s Club of Florida, Florida Conservation Voters, Human Rights Council of North Florida as well as other organizations.


To read more about these candidates, visit any of the sources below. Don’t forget to go out and vote on November 8th. You can find a list of local polling locations at votealachua.com.


























Photo Credit: Elliot Stallion via Unsplash


Kelly is a sophomore studying telecommunications and English at UF. She is the Campus Cutie writer and couldn't be more excited for her first semester on the Her Campus UFL team! Kelly is an avid traveler, coffee lover, and Netflix junkie. She is also a member of Delta Zeta and a dual citizen of Canada and the United States. Kelly spent her summer at WWSB ABC 7 as a digital media intern. She hopes to one day produce and write for television in a city like New York or Toronto.
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