Despite a polarizing election year, one democratic process remains sweet.
As the nation hurtles towards Nov. 3, two Tampa Bay bakeries are continuing an annual election tradition of conducting presidential cookie polls.
Alessi Bakery in Tampa has been selling short dough sugar cookies bearing the likeness of former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump for over a month. Each costs $2.45 and is topped with icing and an edible image of the candidates on rice paper.
The 108-year-old bakery at 2909 W. Cypress St. is posting results on a whiteboard behind the counter. It started the tradition of making treats with politician’s portraits during the 2004 election between George W. Bush and John Kerry and has also sold confections for Tampa’s mayor races.
“Up until this point, the cookie race has determined who has won by crazy coincidence," said assistant manager Jason Alessi, 40.
While the political treats are usually a big hit locally, this year requests have come from as far away as Montana. The tally is displayed on a whiteboard behind the counter and updated at the end of each day.
As of Monday afternoon, Alessi had sold 825 Trump cookies, with Biden trailing behind at 425. Alessi said he thinks there must be a larger Republican crowd in the area around the bakery. But he knows some have purchased Trump cookies in protest.
"They say they’re going to take it home and stomp on them,” he said.
Frida’s Cafe & Bakery in Largo has also sold presidential cookies since the 2004 election. Bakery owner Frida Alipour, 64, says her idea to do a cookie poll was the first in the region. But she doesn’t mind seeing others carry out the tradition.
“It has become part of the culture of the bakery to run this cookie poll and to respect voting and democracy,” she said. “It’s good to get people involved in the election. I’m proud of that.”
This year, the cafe at 9700 Ulmerton Road is selling sprinkle-covered 4-inch cookies with the likeness of Biden and Kamala Harris or Trump and Mike Pence for $2.99.
Frida’s sells several dozen presidential cookies most days. The cookies make great gag gifts, said assistant manager Melissa Taylor.
“The day of the first debate we were selling out as fast as we can make them," Taylor said.
Trump was in the lead in September, but after the debate Biden surged ahead. Due to the contentious nature of politics this year, Alipour didn’t feel comfortable displaying a running tally of the cookies sold.
“The customers will say that we’re pushing for one over the other and that we’re not a democracy," Taylor said. “It’s gotten a little intense in the past.”
Longtime customers expect the cookie poll. When they ask for poll updates, bakery workers tell them.
“They are pretty civilized, thank God,” Alipour said. “I hope the Nov. 3 election result would be as civilized as my cookie poll, no matter what the outcome is.”