In the shadows of tall palm trees, against a background of lush vegetation, voters began trickling into St. Petersburg's Sunken Gardens to participate in Tuesday's Florida primary election.
Selecting their party's candidate for governor seemed among the highest concern for voters exiting polls. At Sunken Gardens, and at the Coliseum a bit further to the south, there was a strong showing of Democrats, with many hoping to build a stable of solid candidates for the general election.
"The fate of the universe rides on the election this fall," said Kara Wilson, a 41-year-old Democrat from St. Petersburg.
Wilson said she hopes her vote will help bring more Democrats to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. alike. She's looking forward to a "blue wave" in November, when Democrats could stand to take control of Congress.
In Florida, it's been nearly 20 years since there's been a Democrat at the helm of the state house, and some Democrats feel Republicans haven't done enough to enact common-sense gun legislation — particularly in light of a growing number of mass shootings throughout the state.
"It's like there's a new tragedy every week," said Catherine Skillman, 57. "Gun laws and health care run together. If you take away the health care and make it easier to get guns, that's dangerous."
Many Democrats expressed mental health issues and access to health care as concerns in moving the gun control debate forward.
Jacksonville native Lindsay Larimore, a 27-year old e-commerce manager, said gun issues were at the forefront of her mind Tuesday. Her best friend, she said, works at the Jacksonville Landing where a gunman opened fire Sunday during a video game competition. For her, the latest Florida shooting hit too close to home.
"I'm not all for taking away guns completely," Larimore said. "I think that as an American you have the right to bear arms, but I think we just need stricter protocol so we actually understand who's hands those guns are being out into."
Precinct deputies at the Coliseum said voter turnout already seemed high before noon. The doors were swinging open more frequently as steady streams of voters cast their ballots, they said.
Republicans, too, said the choice of governor was among the top priorities in Tuesday's primary. Leonard McCue, a 78-year-old Republican attorney, said he votes in every primary. He thinks they can be more important than the general election at times because voters have more of an opportunity to choose the right candidate.