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Election '08 lessons: The environment sells, incumbents rule

Sure, the national race is the big story, but there's plenty to chew on from Tuesday's election for us local yokels too. For instance:

• The environment sells. Anything on the ballot that looked like an environment or conservation measure won. That included Amendment 4, a tax break for conservation land, a property tax in Hillsborough County for buying environmental land, and tighter rules in Pinellas County for protecting it.

• Antitax sentiment sells, too. Anything that looked like a tax break passed. That included Amendment 3 (hurricane and energy improvements to homes), Amendment 4 (a tax break for conservation land) and Amendment 6 (a tax break for "working waterfront" property).

Conversely, the voters rejected Amendment 8, which would have allowed counties to create a tax to support community colleges. And two Hernando County commissioners, both Democrats, were defeated in campaigns that featured antitax themes.

• Amendment 2 fallout. Okay, we've put a ban on same-sex marriage in the Florida Constitution. But it seems likely we'll need court rulings on what the "substantial equivalent" of marriage means. It wouldn't be surprising to see legal attacks on domestic-partner health benefits and such.

• Deborah Clark. The Pinellas elections supervisor caught a lot of flak for limiting early voting to three sites, but it didn't translate into votes against her. She won with 61.37 percent of the vote.

• Buddy Johnson. The Hillsborough election supervisor managed to run neck and neck with his challenger despite a Keystone Cops history of mishaps. Credit it to party identification, name recognition from his extensive self-promotion and an opposition that perhaps took too much for granted.

• Female judicial candidates. Before we go overboard with the gender factor in the Pasco-Pinellas race between Susan L. Gardner and Robert Angus Williams, consider that at least three women around the state lost circuit judge races to men. Is it possible that a public defender type facing off against a big-law-firm, developers' attorney was a factor, too?

• A bright side for Florida Republicans. In Florida, the GOP lost a net of just one congressional seat, held its commanding lead in the Legislature, re-elected virtually all of its local incumbents, and delivered 48 percent of the vote to the national ticket even in a high-tide Democratic year.

• Incumbency, not party. Whether Democrat or Republican, incumbents won across the board in the Tampa Bay area with just three exceptions — a Republican Hillsborough commissioner with a truckload of baggage, and the two Democratic Hernando commissioners. Doesn't this suggest voters are prone to vote for names, especially incumbents they know, more than party? Doesn't this also show the failure of the Democrats' attempts to generate straight-party voting?

• Who cares about school boards? Some of the biggest dropoffs between the votes cast in the presidential race and the number of votes cast in down-ballot races involved school boards. Dunno why. In Hillsborough, school races outdrew only the Soil and Water Conservation District.

• The system worked, didn't it? For a state using its third voting system in three national elections, things went pretty well.

Election '08 lessons: The environment sells, incumbents rule 11/05/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 9, 2008 11:10am]
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