TAMPA — Heading into the evening rush hour, about 10.2 percent of Tampa voters have cast ballots so far today in the races for mayor and City Council, according to a sample of voting at 10 city precincts.
The sample estimated voting through 4:45 p.m. and had Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections officials hoping for a surge of voting between 5 and 7 p.m., when polls close.
Rain this morning appeared to dampen turnout in some areas, Supervisor of Elections Office spokesman Travis Abercrombie said.
"We are being very hopeful there will be a stronger turnout," Abercrombie said.
Along with those voting today, another 8 percent of city voters already have voted early or cast absentee ballots. That brings the running total on turnout so far to a little more than 18 percent.
That's more than the 15.6 percent of 2007, when Mayor Pam Iorio won in a less competitive race, but still lags behind the 25 percent average turnout for the last three city elections.
Voters are electing a new mayor to replace Iorio, who is term-limited, from among five current or former local officials: Bob Buckhorn, Rose Ferlita, Dick Greco, Thomas Scott and Ed Turanchik.
They also are choosing a new City Council and will decide whether to authorize a property tax break for new businesses or ones that expand.
Many voters said they were basing their decisions on what candidates said during the campaign about economic development and creating jobs. A St. Petersburg Times-Bay News 9 poll found that to be the most important issue in the mayor's race.
For two years, George Konold Jr. has looked for a new job to replace his home marketing business, and he listened for the candidate for mayor who talked the most about jobs.
At Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, he voted for Buckhorn.
"I heard some quotes on TV where he seemed to make a lot of sense," Konald, 54, said.
Lifelong Tampa resident Russ Shenk, 67, was at St. John's Greek Orthodox Church in South Tampa just after the polls opened. He said he had trouble choosing among two or three of the candidates for mayor, and it came down to one issue.
"I'm going to vote for someone who gets the city budget under control,'' said Shenk, who had just finished his morning bike ride.
By 7:15 a.m., Lea Del Tosto already had cast her ballot at Palma Ceia Baptist Church. The landscape architect said she voted for Ed Turanchik for mayor. Turanchik, she said, is proactive and has progressive plans for transportation.
"He has some great ideas for what Tampa can be,'' said Del Tosto, 48.
At the polling place at the West Tampa Convention Center, passing motorists on Columbus Drive honked at supporters holding campaign signs. Some voters threw up their hands at those holding Dick Greco signs that show his open hand.
A light drizzle began to fall about 8 a.m. By 9 a.m., it was pouring at the Jackson Heights NFL Youth Education Town Center, where Tyron Wilson and Ethel Williams has been holding up campaign signs since 7 a.m. Both said they were voting for Thomas Scott.
They cited job creation as their biggest concern. Both were retired but wanted to see their younger relatives find work, and soon.
Wilson, 52, said he felt Scott would put people back to work and make history as the city's first black mayor.
Williams, a 67-year-old Tampa native, said that because of the economy, this election is more important than most. Peeking out from her umbrella, she said she felt good about early morning turnout and hoped it would continue.
Mario Quevedo, 65, voted at Precinct 219 in the MacDill area for Bob Buckhorn.
"First of all, I believe he's the best qualified," Quevedo said. "Second of all, we believe we need to turn the page here in Tampa. Third, he has been a friend of my Cuban-American community throughout. And fourth, if I could take half a vote from Dick Greco after the hug to Castro. I will take half a vote from Dick Greco."
Abercrombie said there were few lines at the polls and voting was "moving at a steady pace.'' He encouraged voters to check the sample ballot on votehillsborough.org because some were confused about precincts or realized they lived in unincorporated Hillsborough County, not the city of Tampa.
This story has been changed to reflect the following correction: George Konold Jr. voted for Bob Buckhorn for mayor. His name was misspelled in a report on voter turnout in the city elections.