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Land O’ Lakes voter bids farewell to Florida elections

Robert Tulba, 31, of Land O' Lakes is a volunteer for the Andrew Gillum gubernatorial campaign. He was stationed outside the Land O' Lakes Recreation Center Tuesday to greet voters in precinct 35.
Published Aug. 28, 2018

Melinda Rivera cast her ballot Tuesday morning at the Land O' Lakes Recreation Center then posed for a selfie with a poll worker. A few minutes later, she shot another digital photograph with a journalist.

"It's my last vote as a single woman," said Rivera, 47, of Land O'Lakes.

Also, her last election in Florida. She is moving to South Carolina where her fiance, David Matos, is a firefighter in Greenville. She completed the Democratic ballot, voting for Andrew Gillum for governor and Chris Hunter for U.S. Congress. Mostly, though, she said she was voting for one thing: anti-Trump.

Rivera was in the minority at the heavy Republican precinct. By mid-morning, only 162 Election Day ballots had been cast there, bringing the precinct's total to 1,450 votes including mail and early voters.  Of that, 711 were Republicans and 577 were Democrats.

Republican Adam Arfaras, 57, said he voted for U.S. Rep Ron DeSantis of Palm Coast  for governor and Assistant State Attorney Elle Rudisill for state House of Representatives District 37.

"I am very conservative and I am hard-core for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness," he said.

Several voters said they preferred DeSantis' opponent for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Lakeland.  They considered him a favorite son even though he is not from Pasco County.

"I watched him grow up, basically," said Linda Villar, 54.

"He's a Florida boy," said Marlin King, 72.

"He's been around and (Polk County Sheriff) Grady Judd endorsed him," said Carlos Valle Sr., 67, whose son is a deputy sheriff in Polk County.

Missing from the recreation center's exterior was the usual gauntlet of candidates and volunteers holding campaign signs.  Robert Tulba 31, of Land O' Lakes held the only sign:  "Andrew Gillum for governor."

It might have worked. Only three Democratic voters agreed to talk to a journalist and all three said they voted for Gillum.

At the community center at Land O' Lakes Heritage Park, home to precincts eight and 20, the sign-waving was a family affair. Judy Morrow, 74, of Lutz held a sign on behalf of her granddaughter, Rudisill, who faced fellow Republicans Ardian Zika and Ryan Patrick Boney for the GOP nomination for the state House seat now held by outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes.

Morrow had a lament, however. She doesn't live in the district and couldn't vote for Rudisill.

"Isn't that awful?" she said. "You think they'd let you do it when it's one of your grands."

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