Slightly more Republicans than Democrats have cast votes so far in Pinellas County's special congressional election, but it's too early to spot a trend in the three-way battle for the seat.
The Pinellas Supervisor of Elections reports that as of Friday, 44,326 mailed ballots had been returned in the race between Republican David Jolly, Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby.
Republicans sent in 18,786, or roughly 42 percent, of the ballots received so far. Democrats sent in roughly 39 percent of the votes with 17,387.
Other voters — which could include independent voters or members of smaller political parties such as Libertarians, sent in 8,153, or roughly 18 percent, of the ballots received so far.
These numbers are being closely watched by the candidates, and will likely be scrutinized by political observers nationwide. The parties and the media have focused on the special election in Pinellas County because some see it as a bellwether of the nation's political leanings.
But it's still early in the process.
"It is too early to tell," said Sarah Bascom, spokeswoman for Jolly. "We are focused on turnout of our supporters and educating the undecided voters."
Sink's campaign manager, Ashley Walker, said Sink was getting support from Democrats, Republicans and independents. "This is a tight race, but we are excited by the turnout we've seen so far, and we will continue to work hard each day for every single vote."
Though Republicans have sent in the most ballots, it's not yet possible to know if Jolly received the most votes. Republicans can vote for Democrats and Democrats can vote for Republicans. Also, the number of "other voters" is more than enough to swing the result.
According to the Supervisor of Elections, about 37.1 percent of district's voters are Republicans, 34.7 percent are Democrats and 24 percent have "no party affiliation," sometimes called independents. The rest are in smaller political parties. That's out of more than 450,000 registered voters in the district.
The election will be March 11 in Congressional District 13, which stretches from south Pinellas to Dunedin, with portions of southern and central St. Petersburg cut out. The special election was called after the October death of Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who served more than 40 years in Congress.
An independent write-in candidate, Michael Levinson, also is running.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232