ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ Clovis Watson, Jr. handily defeated incumbent Sadie Darnell to be Alachua County’s top law enforcement official. After first being elected Nov. 14, 2006, the longstanding Sheriff Darnell will lose her seat in the coming months as Watson formally takes over the role of Alachua County Sheriff at the beginning of 2020.
Watson picked up 23,110 votes, or 59.3 percent compared to Darnell’s 15,851 votes, or 40.7 percent of the votes according to the unofficial tally by the Alachua County Supervisor of Election.
Watson and Darnell were in a closed primary race, meaning only Democrats could cast ballots because Rob Brinkman jumped in the race as a write-in general election candidate. That means Watson will face off against Brinkman as a write-in candidate in the general election, although Watson’s election is nearly a foregone conclusion since Brinkman is not campaigning.
While only registered Democrats could cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary, according to campaign finance reports, Watson garnered a wide cross-section of support.
Watson currently serves in the Florida House of Representatives in House District 20. For several years, he led his hometown, the City of Alachua, as its city manager, and has an extensive background in law enforcement, having served for many years as the Deputy Police Chief in the City of Alachua.
Darnell was not the only incumbent to lose in the Aug. 18 primary. Longtime Alachua County District 1 Commissioner Mike Byerly with 34.2 percent lost to fellow-Democrat Mary Alford who picked up 65.8 percent of the vote tally.
Alachua County Commissioner for District 3, Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson, who chose not to seek re-election, will be replaced by Anna Prizzia (49.1 percent), who beat Kevin Thorpe (36.9 percent) and Jason Stanford (14 percent).
Alachua County Commissioner for District 5, Charles “Chuck” Chestnut, IV, faced no challenger in the Aug. 18 election and will retain his seat. As a result of Tuesday’s election, and for the first time, women will make a majority of the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners.
In an historic shakeup on the Alachua County School Board, Diyonne L. McGraw (52.4 percent) won the District 2 seat over Khanh-Lien R. Banko (47.6 percent). McGraw replaces Eileen F. Roy on the school board. Meanwhile, Leanetta McNealy (61percent) will retain her District 4 school board seat after defeating Sande Calkins (39 percent). With McGraw, McNealy, and Tina Certain (District 1), the School Board of Alachua County will consist of three African-American women for the first time in school board history.
In Newberry, incumbent Commissioner Monty Farnsworth was re-elected with 55.3 percent as compared to challenger Walt Boyer’s 44.7 percent of the votes cast in Tuesday’s election. Newberry voters did adopt some revisions to the City’s charter, but declined to increase the terms of service from two years to three years for the mayor and commissioners.
Hawthorne voters elected Patricia Bouie (72.1 percent) to Seat 4 over Wallace F. Russell (27.9 percent). In Archer, voters elected Joan White (61.8 percent) to Seat 1 over Bill Lewandowski (38.1 percent) and Fletcher Hope (62.3 percent) to Seat 3 over Mary Bennett (37.7 percent).
With Alachua County Property Appraiser Ed Crapo declining to seek re-election, Ayesha Solomon (48.8 percent) will take on the role after facing off against Matt Geiger (27 percent), Wendy Sapp (13 percent), Susan M. McQuillan (6.2 percent) and Kelly F. Suggs (5 percent).
Replacing Clovis Watson, Jr. as the Florida House District 20 representative will be Yvonne Hayes Hinson. Hinson, with 61.8 percent of the votes beat out Rodney Long, who had 38.2 percent of the votes cast. Long had served as an Alachua County Commissioner for a number of years in the 2000s, and as a Gainesville city commissioner beginning in 1988, but has been out of elected public office for years since leaving the county commission.
In the hotly-contested U.S. House of Representatives District 3 Republican primary race, Kat Cammack won with 25.2 percent of the ballots cast over Judson Sapp (20 percent), Gavin Rollins (15.3 percent), James St. George (14.1 percent), Todd Chase (9.5 percent), and five other candidates garnering a combined 15.9 percent of the votes. Cammack will face off in the Nov. 3 general election against Adam Christensen who won 34.5 percent of the votes cast in the U.S. House of Representatives District 3 Democrat primary race. Christensen beat out Philip Dodds (32.3 percent) and Tom Wells (33.2 percent). Given the voter makeup of House District District 3, and the history of Republican victories over the district, it is likely that Cammack will prevail in the Nov. 3 general election.
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