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Local Issues, Candidates Draw Tampa Bay Area Voters To The Polls

voting signs
Mary Shedden/WUSF

With more than 1.75 million votes already cast by mail or in early voting, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said primary-election day started smoothly.

About 1.2 million voters cast ballots by mail, while another 538,000 people voted early.

Those totals topped the numbers during the 2012 and 2014 primaries.

The state had a couple of delays in opening polling places in Flagler and Lee counties, and a polling place was moved in Miami Beach because of the need to spray for mosquitoes.

However, the day started without long lines, and weather conditions were not an issue.

St. Petersburg resident Robert Baisley said the Democratic Senate primary was a key reason he showed up at the polls. To him, it was a contest between Congressmen Patrick Murphy of Palm Beach Gardens and Alan Grayson of Orlando.

“I read not a great deal, but just normal stuff that was in the papers every day and I guess I had been leaning toward Murphy since the beginning and my reading just confirmed my feeling in that respect,” Baisley said.

Another Senate candidate earned a vote from Mary McLean of St. Petersburg, a Democrat. McLean, who said she has voted in every election since she was 18, preferred Pam Keith, a former military lawyer from South Florida.

When asked if her decision was hard, she says Keith's gender made it easy.

“No -- I always vote for women,” she said.

Third party registrants and independent voters like Roger Breit, of Tampa, can only vote in non-partisan races and ballot initiatives.

“I showed up primarily for the constitutional amendment as well as the judicial elections because I think at least one of the judicial elections will be decided today,” Breit said.

In Pinellas County's District 13, Republican incumbent David Jolly is seeking re-election. He faces Mark Bircher in Tuesday’s GOP primary.

But Keith Knudsen a Republican from Clearwater says neither candidate in particular brought him to the polls today.

"The most important issue to me I guess right now is the solar panels -- the tax exemption for that -- I think we need to head down that road and the exemption gives you a push towards clean energy and renewable.”

Knudsen is voting yes on Amendment 4.  If approved, it would make solar and renewable energy equipment on commercial buildings exempt from property taxes. It would also eliminate certain personal property taxes on solar equipment.

The measure needs support from 60 percent of voters. It would then be sent back to the Legislature for final approval.

Pat Bauer, a Democrat from Precinct 434 in Dunedin, thinks the national campaign season is overshadowing state and county primary races.

"And that distresses me a bit because people -- they don't even think of coming out and voting on this day,” Bauer said. “This is a very important day because decisions are being made ... like the school board members make very important decisions about the lives of our children and I used to be a teacher so that's very important to me."

Small business owner and Republican J.B. Davis of Tampa says the presidential campaign has had an effect on voter morale.

“I think people are tired. I think people are a little burned out,” Davis said. “I’ll be honest, I’m a little tired of it. I’m a little tired of the misinformation by both parties and the backstabbing and not really focusing on the things I think are important. It’s all the hot button topics.”

Davis would like to hear more political discussion locally about improving traffic congestion, infrastructure and schools. He says nationally there should be a vision of the country's future -- what it should look like in 20 years.

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