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NEWBERRY – Newberry City Hall hosted an expansive political forum Tuesday, Aug. 2 in which several candidates for a number of elected positions spoke.

The forum was organized by various businesses in the area and moderated by Scott Costello, Alachua County resident and owner of Advantage Publishing.

Primary elections will be held Aug. 30 and the general election will be Nov. 8.

Florida State Senate, District 8 candidates Keith Perry (R) and Rod Smith (D) were both present, as were candidates for State Representative, District 21 Chuck Clemons (R), Wenda Lewis (R), and Tim Rogers (R).

Incumbent U.S. Representative Ted Yoho (R) attended, and his challenger Ken McGurn (D) was represented by Campaign Manager Bryan Eastman.

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell (D) and challengers Lt. Jack Jacobs (R), and Zac Zedalis (D) were present at the event and again at a special debate held just for the Sheriff’s Office candidates Thursday, Aug. 4.

Alachua County Clerk of Court candidates J.K. “Jess” Irby and Sam Collins spoke, presenting their cases to succeed longtime Clerk of Court J.K. “Buddy” Irby.

Several Alachua County Board of County Commissioners candidates attended. Kevin Thorpe (D) is challenging Mike Byerly (D) for County Commission District 1. Larry McDaniel (D) is challenging Robert Hutchinson (D) for County Commission District 3, while Charles “Chuck” Chestnut IV (D) is running for re-election to County Commission District 5.

An Alachua County School Board race was also represented, as Juliun Kinsey is challenging current School Board District 2 member Eileen Roy.

Dozens of flyers, brochures and informational packets circulated during the event.

Mathew Burke, leader of Newberry Martial Arts and founder of veteran and family outreach organization Christian Adventure Network, spoke to help introduce candidates and spread news of his organizations’ upcoming events.

The purpose of hosting the event was to offer a platform for candidates to speak to citizens and share their beliefs and advocate for their cause. The forum’s structure gave each candidate one minute to answer questions raised by audience members.

Perry, the current House Representative of District 21, and Smith, a longtime former State Senator, are both running for State Senate, District 8. Smith said that too many politicians point fingers and blame each other rather than get something done. His platform is “responsibility matters.”

Clemons (R), Lewis (R), and Rogers (R), who are all running for State Representative, District 21, all have a similar conservative idealism.

Clemons believes conservative ideas result in the best solutions. Lewis is a large business owner as part of her family business, Lewis Oil.

Rogers is a pharmacist with the University of Florida Veterinary Hospitals and president of the Florida Pharmacy Association's board of directors.

McGurn, who is taking on current U.S. Representative Yoho, is a Vietnam veteran with a doctorate in real estate from the University of Florida’s College of Business. He said he is running for office to help unify the country.

Yoho’s background includes being a small-business owner. He earned his undergraduate degree in animal science and doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Florida.

The three candidates running for Alachua County Sheriff had different viewpoints on what success meant. Zedalis disagreed with Darnell that the Sheriff’s office was doing its best. He said, contrary to her claims, the department was not underfunded and needed to stop asking for money.

“We need get back to the basics,” he said. “You have people sitting in their offices making more than the people actually out in the field doing their job.” Zedalis is running on multiple promises, one of which is reducing the budget by nearly $4 million during his first year.

Darnell has over 30 years of law enforcement experience, however, bringing a large amount of familiarity to the table if re-elected.

Jacobs said he would boost services by cutting waste and red tape while also modernizing the agency’s technology.

Kevin Thorpe, incumbent Mike Byerly’s opponent in the County Commission District 1 race, said it is time for a change.

“Sixteen years is too long for anyone to be in office,” said Thorpe, referring to Byerly. “It’s time for new ideas, time for a change.”

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