Fall Elections Candidate Q&A

ACEL’s Public Policy Committee reached out to candidates running in the upcoming election to answer a few questions or provide more information on their platform to our members. The following candidates responded: 

Sean Shaw, candidate for Attorney General

Sean Shaw

1) Please briefly describe your top three policy priorities or platform items

  • Advocating for common sense gun safety laws like universal background check and banning assault weapons.
  • Holding the pharmaceutical industry accountable for their role in the opioid crisis.
  • Keeping Floridians safe by cracking down on scammers and predators seeking to hurt our children and elderly population.

2) What crucial issue for young professionals could you address in your role? How would you address this issue?

We need to ensure that we are creating a state where young professionals are obtaining good paying jobs that offer insurance coverage and have safe communities to live, work, play, and raise a family. As Attorney General, I will continue to advocate for public education and common sense gun reforms. Also, our state is suffering the consequences of slacked environmental protections, such as green algae blooms and red tide. I will hold corporate polluters accountable whose actions put the health and well-being of Floridians and our environment at risk.


Marihelen Wheeler, candidate for Alachua County Commission District 2

Marihelen Wheeler

1)  Please briefly describe your top three policy priorities:

The three policies that I have focused on in this campaign include protecting the environment, advocating for children and improving economic opportunities for rural and urban families.  I have been an environmental activist regarding protections of water quality and quantity as it effects human health, ecotourism, aquaculture and agriculture of North Florida. I am a retired educator of 38 years and have spent my adult career working with children from a wide range of abilities. I have an MA in Art Education and and MAEd in Exceptional Student Education. Many of the students I have taught have children of their own now and are working hard to support them. I want to help them by focusing on raising wages to a living wage, increasing available affordable housing and reliable public transportation.

2)  What is one solution you would propose to improve issues of educational inequities in Alachua County?

I would work closely with the Alachua County School Board to encourage more educational choices to include vocational education at an earlier age and push for a vocational-tech high school. I would also align this training with what is being offered by the Children’s Trust Initiative.

3)  What is one solution you would propose to improve issues of educational inequities in Alachua County?

I will support the Comprehensive Plan as it outlines water and land protections to not only secure our water supplies, but to help prevent sinkholes and flooding of homes and businesses that may be built in fragile areas. Alachua County is growing and is not being held back as seen by growth in Western Alachua County. Care is being taken to develop

April Tisher, Candidate for Alachua County School Board District 3

April Tisher

My top three platform issues are:

  • School safety (including mental health)- SRO’s, campus and facility safety improvements and mental health screenings and support is vital.
  • Increased support for extracurricular activities- especially beginning in our middle schools I feel many sports, bands, clubs are cost and transportation prohibitive for many students. For some it’s those extra activities that give the motivation to attend and put forth effort in school. Tutoring support, adequate equipment, facilities and instruction is vital to running successful programs. 
  • Expanded career and technical educational offerings across the county-while we have a lot of options and Lofton is a good center, I would like to see more educational tracts, certification programs, etc. offered in all middle and high schools in the district. Not all students will attend a university right out of high school, we can offer options to give them marketable (hireable) skills. 

Dr. Gunnar Paulson, Candidate for Alachua County School Board District 3

Dr. Gunnar Paulson

1) Please briefly describe your top three policy priorities or platform issues.

  • Safety: Provide a safe, secure environment for our children and employees
  • Pass a 1/2 Cents Sales Tax for district facilities on November 6th
  • Raise teacher salaries
  • Implement our newly approved Equity Plan

2) What crucial issue for young professionals could you address in your role? How would you address this issue?

Issue: How can a young professional get more involved in public education in Alachua County?

  • Explain the Education Foundation’s role in helping students. Particularly, “Take Stock in Children.”
  • Encourage Young Professionals to join the Alachua County Council PTA.
  • Steer the Emerging Leader to our District Volunteer Coordinator.
  • Get involved with the Alachua County Chamber of Commerce. They are presently backing our sales tax initiative.
  • Inquire about the availability of school district committees to serve on.


Craig DeThomasis, candidate for Alachua County Court Judge District 2

Craig DeThomasis

Craig DeThomasis has been a resident of Alachua County since 1976 when he first arrived in Gainesville to attend the University of Florida where he earned his Bachelors degree in Finance/Business Administration (1980) and his Juris Doctor (1983).

Craig has been practicing law in Alachua County for 35 years. He has extensive courtroom experience,has been awarded the Florida Bar’s Meritorious Public Service Award on two occasions, and is the only candidate to have received the highest ratings in ethical standards and legal ability from both Florida Bar approved ratings services. He has been recognized for his professionalism and legal expertise by being elected President of the local J.C. Adkins Inn of Court (an organization of attorneys and judges that are dedicated to instilling the highest level of professionalism in the practice of law), President of the 8th Circuit Chapter of the Florida Assoc. of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and being appointed to the Grievance Committee for two terms (where he served for six years, with three as chair of the committee investigating claims of unethical conduct filed against license attorneys).

In addition to the practice of law, Craig has also served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at U.F.’s College of Law for the past 28 years. His students earned their certification from the Florida Supreme Court to allow them to serve as Assistant State Attorneys and Assistant Public Defenders throughout the State in the County Court in which he seeks to serve.

He has also been an active member of our community serving in many leadership capacities including: Board of Directors Children’s Home Society ( 6 years), Board of Directors Bikers on Parade for the USA ( as a charter member of this organization and member for 4 years, Craig helped raise 1/2 million dollars for local veterans), and Graduate of Leadership Gainesville XXII.

Meshon Rawls, candidate for Alachua County Court Judge District 2

Meshon Rawls

My entire career has been dedicated to helping people. Becoming a judge will allow me to continue my service to the community and the profession from a different perspective and in a greater way.


I have been a resident of Alachua County for 27 years. My husband is Ron Rawls, who is the Pastor of St Paul AME Church. We have been married for 18 years. We have three children, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, three granddaughters and we raised my brother.


I am a double gator. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 1993 and my law degree from the University of Florida Law School in1998. My legal career began, 20 years ago, as an Assistant Public Defender. During my time at the Public Defender’s Office, I handled hundreds of cases in the misdemeanor, felony and juvenile divisions. In 2006, I accepted a position as a full-time faculty member at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. I am currently the Director of Gator TeamChild Juvenile Law Clinic, a full-service law firm for children. Here, I teach law students how to practice law and together we represent children in various types of proceedings, which include delinquency, dependency, school disciplinary, school disability, and custody matters.


Throughout my career, I have invested in giving back to the community and the legal profession. I have served the community by volunteering with numerous organizations, such as PACE Center for Girls, Reichert House After School Program, Santa Fe Refocus Program and Home Instruction for Parents and Pre-School Youngsters. As for my contributions to the legal profession, I have served in leadership roles and on various local and state committees. I am the immediate past president of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association, a member of the Florida Bar Juvenile Law Board Certification Committee, a member of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Professionalism Panel and a Florida Bar Leadership Academy Fellow.


It would be an honor to serve as you next Alachua County Court Judge.



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