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Democrats: "We got clobbered'

Published Sep. 4, 2005

Final voting results released by the Hernando County elections office Thursday confirmed what activists and observers had speculated _ Republicans walloped Democrats.

The GOP had a higher percentage turnout than Democrats or independents in all but three of the county's 53 precincts. By vote total, Democrats outpolled Republicans in just 18 precincts, despite having higher numbers of registered voters in 30.

Overall, 65.1 percent of Hernando registered Republicans voted on Nov. 5, compared to 57 percent of Democrats and 41.6 percent of independents. Combined, turnout was 57.5 percent.

"The Republicans outmaneuvered us . . . and outsmarted us," said Dom Cabriele, chairman of the Hernando Democratic Executive Committee. "We got clobbered."

He pointed specifically to the Republicans' massive absentee voter campaign, which sent a ballot request to every Republican and independent in the county and state. Many GOP candidates received 25 percent of their support by absentee votes, he noted.

"Our party doesn't do that," Cabriele said, lamenting state leadership that did not provide money for such an initiative.

Republican Executive Committee chairman Frank Colletti acknowledged the party's get-out-the-vote campaign was crucial in the victory.

"We had more people come in to volunteer in this election than we ever had before," he said.

The aggressive phone calling and absentee effort helped get people to vote before they would be influenced by negative advertising, said Anna Liisa Covell, Hernando REC spokeswoman.

Republican voters also seemed more interested in seeing their philosophy implemented by government, Colletti said.

"More people who were on-the-fence Republicans or maybe would not come out for midterms did come out this time."

The highest turnout came in the county's most heavily Republican precincts _ Precinct 47 in Timber Pines, 35 in Timber Pines and 17 in the Heather. In Precinct 47, Hernando's largest, 85.1 percent of voters cast ballots. Precinct 35 had 76.6 percent turnout, and Precinct 17 had 70.7 percent turnout.

By comparison, the most heavily Democratic precincts _ 11 in South Brooksville, 22 at the county fairgrounds and 15 in old Spring Hill _ had some of the lowest voting levels in the county. Precinct 11, among the county's smallest, was second lowest with 43.6 percent participation.

Each had a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats come to the polls.

"Compare it to the last presidential election. It was kind of flip-flopped. So what does that tell you?" former Democratic state committeeman Jay Rowden said of the results.

"It tells me there wasn't any sort of grass roots effort on the part of the local DEC. . . . The objective of the DEC is to get the vote out. They didn't do it, and I think the membership should start asking why."

Also of note, 71.2 percent of local voters over 65 participated in the election. Precincts with the best turnout of seniors were 47, 17 and 35. Those with the lowest turnout of seniors were 39 in old Spring Hill, 31 just east of Brookridge, and 11 in South Brooksville. None was lower than 59.2 percent, still better than turnout generally.