The City of Gainesville has elected its first openly gay mayor, Democratic candidate Craig Lowe.
Because Alachua County election law requires an automatic recount in elections decided by less than 0.5%, and Lowe’s slim margin of victory was a bare 35 votes, a recount was mandated.
The recount, which took place on Friday, ultimately declared Lowe victorious over his opponent, Don Marsh by 42 votes.
Voter turnout was strong, with nearly 16% of registered voters taking part in the election. The University of Florida student body was especially active in showing their support for Lowe.
“Students at UF and Sante Fe College were supportive from the beginning. A large percentage of total votes came from students at those two institutions,” Lowe said, urging more college-age people to vote in future elections.
The much anticipated race received statewide attention because of anti-gay attacks on Lowe by local religious leaders. Conservative organizations had posted flyers, online videos and heated advertisements against Lowe and LGBTs in general. These ads were circulated throughout the community of Gainesville.
Although he plans on facing some opposition in the future, Lowe is proud of his sexual orientation and calls the win a victory for the entire LGBT community- “It is very gratifying that the voters of this city stepped forward and showed their support for a gay man,” he stated.
The anti-Lowe camp not only used Lowe’s sexuality against him during the campaign, but also his support of a city ordinance that added transgender people to the city’s equal protection law.
The group had peppered the city with fliers declaring that the ordinance should be repealed because it allowed “predators and men” to legally enter women’s restrooms.
One organization which showed their disapproval of Lowe was the Dove Outreach Church. The organization is under in
vestigation for authorizing a sign in front of the church that read, “No Homo Mayor.” A top church official confirmed that the church had erected the sign.
Pastor Wayne Sapp has been posting anti-
gay videos online, calling Lowe a “fag” and saying that “Gainesville should not be turned into ‘Homoville.’”
Lowe is active in many LGBT rights organizations including the Human Rights Council of North Central Florida and Safe Schools Coalition of Alachua County. The new mayor credits Equality Florida for contributing thousands of dollars and months of volunteer hours to help ensure his victory.
Although equality issues rank high on Lowe’s list, he will take the first part of his term, which begins May 20, to focus on balancing the city’s budget.
“Many cities across the country are struggling as it pertains to their balance sheet due to the current economic climate. I think focusing on our economy is the most important issue at this time because it affects the greatest amount of citizens,” he states.