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Hillsborough election chief: Coronavirus won’t affect primary

Craig Latimer says that anyone worried about heading to the polls on election day can still order a mail-in ballot through Saturday by phone or online.
Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer [Times (2012)]
Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer [Times (2012)]
Published Mar. 3, 2020
Updated Mar. 3, 2020

Hillsborough County Elections Supervisor Craig Latimer says he’s not worried about problems connected with coronavirus in conducting the March 17 presidential primary and doesn’t believe it will depress turnout.

“We’re simply instructing our people to follow the recommendations of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the public health people” on techniques for preventing spread of contagion, Latimer said — handwashing, covering coughs or sneezes, and, “If you’re sick, stay home.”

Anyone worried about heading to the polls on election day can still order a mail-in ballot through Saturday by phone or online, he said.

Latimer said pollworkers will have hand sanitizer and sanitation wipes available.

In the voting process, voters use a stylus to sign a computer touch screen. Latimer said only the voter touches the stylus, and pollworkers will be instructed “to wipe down touched objects frequently.”

As of late Tuesday morning, the second day of early voting, about 32,000 of the county’s 346,847 registered Democrats and 41,000 of 275,254 Republicans had already voted by mail or early voting.

Despite breaking news about the virus spreading in Florida Monday, Latimer said, 15 people were lined up Tuesday morning when the Election Service Center early voting site on Falkenburg Road opened.

Latimer said there have been no special instructions from the state Division of Elections about virus protection on election day.

Will Rouson go (mostly) unopposed?

In an election likely to be decided by the Aug. 18 Democratic primary, the likelihood of a prominent Democratic challenger to state Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, is decreasing day by day.

In what looks like an attempt to seal the deal, Rouson this week released a list of endorsements from high-powered Democratic-oriented interest groups.

Florida Senator Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.
Florida Senator Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

On the list: the Florida AFL-CIO; the AFL-CIO’s West Central Florida Labor Council; the Florida Education Association state teachers’ union; the Equality Florida, the state’s leading gay rights advocacy group; the Florida Justice Association, the trial lawyers’ trade group; and the Florida Professional Firefighters, the state chapter of the union that represents Hillsborough County firefighters, considered a potent political force.

Rouson’s bay-crossing District 19 takes in south St. Petersburg and a swath of Hillsborough County extending from South Shore to the university area.

Three-quarters of the district is in Hillsborough, and Tampa Democrats would like to elect one of their own. Some of them have criticized Rouson for being too quick to side with the controlling Republican majority on issues including private school tuition vouchers, in return for favors for his district.

Rouson rejects that criticism, and the endorsements from organizations including the teachers’ union could counter it.

Equality Florida cited Rouson’s sponsorship of legislation to prohibit employment discrimination against gay people.

Prominent potential Tampa candidates have included Sean Shaw, who says he won’t run; and former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, who has said for months that she was considering it but hasn’t pulled the trigger.

Joyner said she’s still “undecided” about entering the race, but insiders say a challenge is becoming less likely as the primary date nears.

Joyner has said her name recognition in the district, most of which she represented before Rouson won the seat, means she could mount a campaign quickly.

But Shaw, asked whether Rouson will go without a prominent Hillsborough challenge, Shaw replied, “It’s looking like it.”

Two other candidates have filed: Republican Kriztofer Dulton Cole of Riverview and no-party affiliate Christina Paylan of St. Pete Beach.

Paylan initially filed as a Democrat in September. In January, she wrote to the Division of Elections that she had “uncovered that my principles are aligned with the Republican Party,” but switched to no-party because partisan candidates must have been registered with the party for a year as of election day.

Neither Cole nor Paylan had raised any money through January, although Paylan has loaned her campaign $10,000.

The minority-access district is heavily Democratic.

CD 15 endorsements

Former attorney general candidate Sean Shaw of Tampa will become chairman of Rep. Adam Hattersley’s campaign for the East Hillsborough-Lakeland Congressional District 15.

Former television journalist Alan Cohn (left) and State Rep. Adam Hattersley are Democratic candidates in Florida's 15th Congressional District. (Photos courtesy of Alan Cohn and Adam Hattersley.)
Former television journalist Alan Cohn (left) and State Rep. Adam Hattersley are Democratic candidates in Florida's 15th Congressional District. (Photos courtesy of Alan Cohn and Adam Hattersley.)

Meanwhile, Alan Cohn, Hattersley’s Democratic primary opponent, has announced an endorsement by Phil Levine, former mayor of Miami Beach and former candidate for governor.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.