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Tampa Bay area voters head to polls for primary, nonpartisan elections

Tampa Bay residents trickled in to the polls Tuesday morning to make decisions on primary elections.

Voters are considering candidates ranging from the U.S. Senate to the Pinellas County School Board.

At the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. library in East Tampa, 18-year-old Yves Higgins was voting for the first time. He was there with his mother, Maxine Jackson, 50. They were also campaigning for Barbara Twyne, who is running for judge.

"It's my baby's first election,'' Jackson said. "I'm so excited and proud of him. I wanted to show my son that it's powerful to vote and it does make a difference.''

Ezra Surcy, 49, said he has voted in every election since he was 18.

"I'm an American and it's my civil duty,' he said. "Everyone should partake in all elections.''

After voting, Surcy said he was going back to his neighborhood to shuttle people to polling places.

Around downtown Tampa, voting seemed to be getting off to a slow start. Visits to Hillsborough County Center on Jackson Street, First Baptist Church on Kennedy Boulevard and Methodist Place Apartments on Harrison Street turned up no voters.

In Hyde Park at the Kate Jackson Community Center, where state Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, was monitoring voter turnout, participation was slim. It's a pattern across much of the region, she said.

The Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Office said that as of 2 p.m., voter turnout in 16 sample precincts was 3.1 percent. But that was in addition to the 15.6-percent turnout prior to Election Day, from early voting and mailed-in ballots. According to records from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office, as of 9:30 a.m., voter turnout was 8.76 percent.

"While it's extremely important to vote in any and every election, the average person is more concerned with their job and their families and their kids who haven't gone back to school yet," Young said. "It's just not a priority."

In St. Petersburg, about a half-dozen voters had cast their votes by 7:30 a.m. at the Coliseum on Fourth Avenue N.

Among them was Leotha Carter, who had a list with the candidates she planned to vote for in her purse. An American flag was draped over her push cart and another one adorned her hat.

"This means so much to me," she said. "I was so excited to be here."

Rick Newcomb was the first voter when polls opened at the Coliseum. He declined to discuss which candidates he voted for, but said he was "looking for a complete turnover."

Nichole Adams, a 24-year-old legal assistant, said she was looking forward to voting for Brian Battaglia for circuit judge.

"I think he is going to do a great job for our county," Adams said. "I feel he has a good character."

At the Florida National Guard Armory on 38th Avenue S in St. Petersburg, Kathy Freeman, 52, said she voted for Marielena Stuart for U.S. Senate. Freeman was helping out with her campaign.

Freeman said she also voted for Sheriff Bob Gualtieri because he knows how to manage the Sheriff's Office with fewer resources.

"I want to keep him in there," Freeman said. "He seems a little more aware of what's going on in the world. ... I know it's getting harder and harder to keep us safe."

Nick Scott, 65, a retired meteorologist, took out his list of candidates and went down the list. He voted for Connie Mack for Florida Senate "because of experience."

"I lean toward experience, but I like to have people that agree with my points of view," including not raising taxes.

Back in Tampa, Shawn Yuskaitis, 36, came to the polls with his 5-year-old son Sebastian. Yuskaitis voted in the Republican primary.

"Primaries give you the chance to choose the lesser of two evils," he said.

David Ward, 70, retired lawyer in South Tampa, lamented the low turnout.

"It's disappointing we don't have as much turnout as we should," he said. "It's a unique privilege and unique obligation to vote in this country."

Nancy Savage, who voted in the Republican primary, agreed.

"No matter how small, it's important to vote in every election because if you don't vote you don't have the right or the reason to complain," she said.

The general election is set for Nov. 6.

Tampa Bay area voters head to polls for primary, nonpartisan elections 08/14/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 8:43pm]

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