Politics

Election Day live coverage: Voters turn out in significant numbers on Primary Day

Hialeah voters cast their ballots at Precinct 317 on Tuesday morning.
Hialeah voters cast their ballots at Precinct 317 on Tuesday morning. Miami Herald

Polls close in South Florida

Polls in Miami-Dade and Broward counties closed at 7 p.m. Live updates as we get them will be posted here.





On why he’s voting for women

Luis Collazo, a 38-year-old nurse from North Miami, cast his votes for female candidates when he voted Tuesday at the Haitian Evangelical Baptist Church near the Golden Glades.

“We need changes,” said Collazo, explaining why he voted for Gwen Graham as governor in the Democratic primary and Democrat Daphne Campbell for state senator, District 38. Campbell was running against Jason Pizzo.

“Females tend for to be nicer and more compassionate and I would love to see a woman in office,” said Collazo, who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest. “If those elections were today, I would still support Hillary — especially with how things are now.”

-- Alexa Eckembrecher

‘He’s for Trump’

Jose Diego Middle School, Wynwood, 7 p.m.: Roughly a dozen people came to vote at Jose De Diego Middle School in Wynwood on Tuesday evening just before the polls closed.

Thomas Lightbourne, 37, was at the polling place with his wife and two children. Lightbourne, a Democrat, had come out to vote because he wanted to cast a ballot for Andrew Gillum in the gubernatorial primary.

“He has a better mindset and plans set for us to move us in the right direction” than the other candidates,” Lightbourne said. “He understands and he gets it.”

North Bay Village resident Ann Bakst, 80, was working at the polling place. Bakst, a Republican, said she had voted absentee for Ron DeSantis in the gubernatorial primary because of his support for President Donald Trump, who she said has done a great job improving the economy.

“He’s for Trump,” she said of DeSantis. “Anybody who’s for Trump, I’m for.”

— Kyra Gurney

Who will help with women equality and social issues?

Watsco Center, University of Miami campus, 7 p.m.: Olivia Coto, a 20-year-old University of Miami student, was eager to vote on Tuesday.

“I came to school 30 minutes early to make sure I’d have time to vote since my classes go all day,” Coto said.

Coto, who grew up in Coral Gables, voted for Donna Shalala, the former University of Miami president, who is running on the Democratic ticket for Congressional District 27.

Shalala is one of five Democrats running for the open seat. The district’s longtime representative, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, announced she was retiring and would not seek re-election. Coto said she voted for Shalala due to her previous experience as UM’s president and because she was a woman.

“I’ve been here my whole life and I think it’s time we have a strong Democrat in the position,’‘ she said. “And also it’s time we have a woman in power who thinks about what’s best for a woman,” she added. “With what’s happening in our country — if I’m being honest — I am voting not based on who will help the economy, but who will help with women equality and other social issues.”

— Samantha Castro

Exercising a fundamental American right

Brendan Phillips, a 19-year-old receptionist at Flex Appeal Miami, a West Kendall gym, took time off from his classes at Florida International University to vote at the Miami-Dade County Fair & Expo Center, a short walk from FIU’s main campus.

“Voting is a right that all Americans should take seriously,” he said.

He voted for Adam Putnam, the state’s agriculture commissioner and one of the candidates running in the Republican gubernatorial race.

“I’m not a fan of the government putting red tape on anything, especially businesses. I believe that restrictions put a stronghold on the economy and [Putnam] seems to be the best person to resemble those opinions,” he said.

— Raul Cruz

Miami Beach voters navigate construction maze to find precinct

Miami Beach City Hall, 5 p.m.: Some South Beach voters were having trouble finding their polling place on Tuesday afternoon.

Five voters who came to Miami Beach City Hall to vote around at 4:30 p.m. learned that they needed to go to the Botanical Gardens instead.

With ongoing construction on the Miami Beach Convention Center next door, however, nearby roads were blocked and it was difficult to find the entrance to the Botanical Gardens.

Jesus Bravo, 57, walked his bicycle through a maze of orange construction barriers as he tried to find a way from City Hall to the Botanical Gardens — a distance of several blocks.

Bravo, a Belle Isle resident, said he was trying to decide whether to vote for Andrew Gillum or former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Bravo said he had made up his mind on the Florida House race for District 113, however.

He planned to cast his ballot for Michael Grieco because the former Miami Beach commissioner has “been here forever.”

“You meet him so many times,” as a Beach resident, said Bravo, who has lived in Miami Beach since 1991. “He’s always around.” Bravo said he wasn’t concerned that Grieco pleaded no contest to a criminal violation of Florida’s campaign finance laws last year. He said he thought that type of behavior wasn’t uncommon in “nasty politics.”

— Kyra Gurney

One vote for DeSantis, another for Greene in gubernatorial primary

Evan Rofe, a 19-year-old University of Miami student voting at the Watsco Center on UM’s Coral Gables campus, voted for Ron DeSantis in the Republican primary for governor. President Donald Trump endorsed DeSantis over Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“I chose to vote for Ron DeSantis,’‘ said the Delray Beach native. “Not completely because he is backed byTrump, but because of his leadership qualities that he had obtained from his time in the Navy.”

Charles Lilienstein, a 20-year old UM student and art dealer who works in Wynwood, said he voted for Jeff Greene in the Democratic primary for governor.

“I am and probably always will be independent, but I just can’t stand to see another state go red,” said Lilienstein, who voted at the Watsco Center. “I decided to vote for Jeff Greene. He’ll stand up for Florida. DeSantis will do every little thing Trump wants him to do and that’s not the kind of freedom I want for Florida right now.”

— Andrew Joseph Guardino

Voting to win instead of choosing to please young people

St. Augustine Church, Coral Gables, 5 p.m.: Alberto Manrara, a 35-year-old lawyer who cast his ballot at St. Augustine Church in Coral Gables, said he was torn between voting for Gwen Graham and Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary for the governor’s seat.

“I voted for Gwen Graham, but I thought I should vote for Andrew Gillum,” said Manrara, a former prosecutor with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and now in private practice.

“He [Gillum] has captured the interests of young people and Florida,” Manrara said. “If we rebut the students right now, when they’re very engaged, it might mean that they’re not going to stay engaged.”

Nonetheless, he voted for Graham because he thinks she can win in November.

“I want near-term results,” Manrara said. “I think she has a much better chance of winning the governorship than Andrew Gillum.”

And, he added, Graham is popular with women. “The suburban female voters are going to decide the election this year, ‘‘ he said.

— Peiyue He

Voters cast ballots on their priorities for primary

Coco Plum Woman’s Club, Coral Gables, 4:55 p.m.: Elections are a time to vote for your priorities. For Jason Hash, 36, a photographer who grew up in Miami, Tuesday’s primary contest was an opportunity to show what matters to him.

Hash said he voted for Andrew Gillum in the Democratic gubernatorial contest.

“He has a good background and brought up the issues that I care most about. He’s different from the other candidates,” said Hash, who voted at the Coco Plum Woman’s Club on Sunset Drive in Coral Gables.

For Congressional District 27, an open seat following Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s announcement that she would retire later this year, Hash voted for Democratic candidate David Richardson, a state representative.

“He is openly gay. It is a big move for the LGBTQ community,” Hash said. “I think he will have a different perspective on issues that need to be addressed.”

— Alessandra Arencibia

At Watsco Center on UM campus, votes for Greene, DeSantis, Scott

Watsco Center at University of Miami Campus, Coral Gables, 4 p.m.: Chris Doell, a 38-year-old businessman from Coral Gables, said he cast a ballot for Jeff Greene in the Democratic gubernatorial contest.

“To be honest, I like the way Jeff opposed himself against our president,” said Doell, who added that he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Doell was one of the first people in line at 7 a.m. Tuesday when the polls opened at the Watsco Center.

Fari Garcia, a 51-year-old manager working for a nonprofit organization, said he voted for Ron DeSantis in the Republican gubernatorial race.

“I mean I’m in a line with his political views,” said Garcia, also voting at the Watsco Center. “And he already had some years in service — that’s important to me.”

She voted for Florida Gov. Rick Scott on the Republican ballot for U.S. Senate. The three-term Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson, is running unopposed so he was not on Tuesday’s primary ballot.

— BY HANQI LI

Miami Beach voters trickle in during late afternoon

Ronald W. Shane Center in North Beach, 3 p.m.: The polling station was nearly empty on Tuesday afternoon. A few voters trickled in around 3 p.m., some after picking up their children from school.

North Beach resident Paola Palmieri, 38, came to the polling station with her 6-year-old son. Palmieri said she wanted to put more Democrats in office, especially women, and had voted for Gwen Graham in the gubernatorial primary.

“We just think that she will probably have more of a chance of beating a stronger opponent” in the general election, Palmieri said.

North Beach resident Abigail Fellows, 44, doesn’t belong to a political party so she wasn’t able to vote in the gubernatorial primary. Fellows did vote on the city ballot measures, however, and voted to raise City Commission salaries in Miami Beach.

“I voted yes for an increase because I think you’re not going to attract quality candidates if you don’t pay properly,” she said. Fellows said the current commissioner salary, which is $6,000, is “ridiculous.”

— Kyra Gurney

Voter turnout outpacing 2014 tally

Miami-Dade Elections Department, 1 p.m.: Voters are not exactly flocking to the polls in Florida’s biggest county, but midway through Tuesday’s primary election more have already cast ballots in Miami-Dade than they did four years ago.

The Miami-Dade Elections Department reported a slightly higher turnout than in 2014, the last off-year primary. With both parties competing hard for open seats in Congress and the Governor’s mansion, more voters are casting ballots in 2018, said Suzy Trutie, spokeswoman for the department.

By 1 p.m., about 42,000 people had voted on Election Day, Trutie said. Add in vote-by-mail (about 123,000) and early voting (56,000), and that’s roughly 221,000 ballots cast.

There are about 1.4 million registered voters, meaning the 2018 primaries are generating close to a 16 percent turnout rate, with six hours of voting still to go. In 2014, the turnout figure was closer to 14 percent.

In 2016, buoyed by the energy of a presidential year, turnout for the August primary topped 20 percent.

— Douglas Hanks

Voters show up but — surprise — no ballot machines, precinct closed

Everything was seemingly good to go at the polls in Broward County — except for one slight problem. The county’s elections department forgot to deliver the voting machines to Towngate Park in Pembroke Pines before the polls opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

About 10 voters couldn’t wait around for the machines to arrive because they had to go work. So, the elections department made arrangements to deliver primary ballots to the frustrated voters. Among them: Steven Vogel. A department employee hand-delivered a ballot to his Aventura office and returned to pick it up an hour later, according to NBC 6.

In Miami Beach, at Biscayne Elementary School, resident Julie Hedert, 49, showed up to cast her ballot promptly at 7 a.m. — but the precinct was closed, she said.

“They opened at basically 7:40 or 7:50 a.m.,” said Hedert, who estimated that 10 to 15 people showed up to vote but left because the precinct was closed and they had to go to work.

“One woman said, ‘I have to go now. I can’t wait,’ ” she said. “They should be open at 7 o’clock in the morning.”

Miami-Dade Elections Department spokeswoman Suzy Trutie said all precincts opened on time, by 7 a.m., including Biscayne Elementary.

“The first voter at Biscayne Elementary checked in at 7:18 a.m.,” she said.

— Jay Weaver, Daniel Chang and Douglas Hanks

‘Torn’ in the voting booth

Coral Gables, 1 p.m.: Christine Hansen, a 53-year-old broadcast designer and Coconut Grove resident, was “torn” between two Democratic candidates for governor, Gwen Graham and Andrew Gillum.

“For the most part, they were both pretty much on the same page,” she said after casting her ballot at the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department off Le Jeune Road. “I ended up with Graham. It just seemed she has a better chance of winning in a very conservative state. I felt like [Gillum] may be too progressive for Floridians.”

And her choice for District 27’s congressional seat? “Again, I was torn.”

It was between David Richardson and Donna Shalala, two of the Democratic candidates running for the seat. She decided on Richardson, a state legislator representing Miami Beach.

“He’s got a little more legislative experience,” she said. “I also like his forensic accounting background for those who don’t like to see the stereotype of Democrats spending uselessly.”

— Veronika Seider

Sick of ‘Trump TV’

Coral Gables, 1 p.m.: Scott Silver, a 60-year-old Coconut Grove lawyer, described himself as a moderate who is “sick and tired of ... everything” in politics — including the “media’s constant obsession with extremist politics” or, as he’s dubbed it, “Trump TV.”

Which is why he voted for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham in Tuesday’s primary.

“We’ve got a lot of extremists on both sides, including in the Democratic Party,” said Silver, who cast his ballot at the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department polling place. “Sometimes it’s easy to scream about crazy things on both sides, but no one screams moderation. So I want [Graham] to scream moderation from the rooftops and actually get things done.”

A personal connection also influenced his decision: “I’ve known the Graham family for many, many years.”

In 1978, he worked as an intern for Bob Graham’s first campaign for governor of Florida. He followed Gwen Graham’s career and watched her “come up through the ranks.”

— Veronika Seider



Gillum hopes to make history

Tallahassee, 11 a.m.: Just after 11 a.m. on primary day, Tallahassee mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum arrived at Good Shepherd Catholic Church to vote for himself for governor. Accompanied by his wife, R. Jai, and their three children, Gillum greeted a small group of supporters before he walked into the polling location. “Let’s go vote,” he told them, as he held his 1-year-old son, Davis, in his left arm. “Let’s bring it home.”

Afterward, he told reporters that voting for himself — in his historic bid to become the state’s first African-American governor — was moving.

“I didn’t realize what the sensation would be like to see my name on the ballot there,” he said. “When I think about that little boy growing up in Richmond Heights, watching my mother and father struggle at different times between paying the bills, to now be in this race and to have my family right alongside me, it’s an overwhelming feeling.”

Gillum also spoke confidently of a late surge in polling he hoped would lift his campaign to victory Tuesday night.

“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people this evening,” Gillum said. “Four, five weeks ago, all y’all’s polls had us fifth. Then we were fourth, then we were third, now we’re second. Today, I think we’re going to close in first.”

But when asked by reporters, Gillum also did not rule out the possibility of considering being a lieutenant governor should someone else win the party’s nomination.

“We’re optimistic we will be the nominee,” he said. “If it isn’t me, I’ll do everything I can to see a Democratic elected governor.”

— Elizabeth Koh

Voter fraud hotline

If you see any irregularities on Election Day Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s office wants to know.

She has set up a voter hotline and a law enforcement response team for any allegations of fraud at the polls or in absentee ballots. Tipsters can call the hotline at 305-547-3300.

— Jay Weaver

Café con politics at Versailles

Little Havana, 10 a.m.: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham started her day around 9 a.m. at famed Cuban eatery Versailles Restaurant, where she donned an apron, learned to make Cuban coffee, served patrons and chatted about the primary election.

On Tuesday, the scene at Versailles reflected the political diversity in Miami’s Cuban diaspora — a far cry from the typically monolithic depiction of conservatism during elections.

Instead, people across the political spectrum, including a number of independents, warmly greeted Graham as she served them some café con politics.

Severo Pina was one of those independents who approached the ventanita. A longtime Republican who left the party after Donald Trump’s election, he had kind words for Graham even though he could not vote for her in Florida’s closed primary.

“I hope you win,” Pina, told her. “I’m a great admirer of your father.” “Thank you. So am I,” Graham said.

Her visit mirrors a stop by her father, Bob Graham, at the restaurant during his 1986 bid for governor, when he bussed tables for a shift. When she was done, she told reporters she was approaching Tuesday like every other day on the campaign.

“Which is to wake up, meet with people, talk with people [and] share my commitment to this race,” she said.

She spoke confidently about her chances against whoever the Republican nominee will be — either Adam Putnam or Ron DeSantis. “This isn’t about serving a political party, or in the case of Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump,” she said. “It’s about serving the people of Florida, and the state of Florida herself. By the way, I think Florida’s female.”

— Joey Flechas

Voters speak out at UM

Coral Gables, 9:30 a.m.: A trickle of voters lined up at a University of Miami precinct to vote for Democratic and GOP candidates in the governor’s race. Some cast their ballots for Democrat Gwen Graham; others, for the GOP’s Ron DeSantis.

“She is the best candidate with regards to public education,” said Daniela Ferrera, a 20-year-old college student from West Kendall who voted for Graham, citing her gun control and environmental policies. “She has the most feasible policies to enact even with a Republican Legislature.”

When asked if there were any candidates whom she disapproved of in the Democratic governor’s race, Ferrera singled out Jeff Greene, who was trailing Graham, Andrew Gillum and Philip Levine in polls. “His negative campaigning is frankly disgusting, and I don’t think it should be reflective of the Democratic Party or its values,” Ferrera said.

Juan Sabater, a 20-year-old future educator from South Florida, said he also backed Graham, because she supports strengthening public schools, boosting teacher pay and limiting charter schools, calling her a “dream candidate.”

Fari Garcia, a 51-year-old Republican from Coral Gables, was one of the very first voters who showed up at the Watsco Center at the University of Miami.

“In the governor’s race, I voted for [Ron] DeSantis.”

She said that apart from aligning with her political views, DeSantis’ experience after “some years in service” makes him the best candidate. When asked who she voted for in the 2016 presidential race, Garcia paused for a moment before letting out a chuckle.

“It’s kind of obvious, right?”

— Alberto Alessandro Lopez

Skinny stream

Little Havana, 8 a.m.: Most election days, a skinny stream of voters slalom through candidate signs and T-shirted supporters to get to the Citrus Grove Middle School voting area on Northwest Third Street just west of Northwest 22nd Avenue.

Tuesday? One voter in the first 15 minutes walking past two Bruno Barriero signs and no supporters. Either it was too early in the day or too late in the process for this voting precinct.

— David Neal

Voters head to the polls

Today is your final chance to vote in Florida’s primary, with the polls opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 7 p.m. Nearly two million Floridians who have already cast ballots in early voting for governor, Congress, and state and local offices over the past four weeks.

Republicans and Democrats are selecting their party nominees in key races. Some candidates will be elected outright, while most are trying to win primary races in order to run in November’s general election.

For Florida’s governor, Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Philip Levine are competing in the Democratic race. Palm Coast Congressman Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are facing off in the Republican contest.

While the outcome of the top-of-ticket races is still unknown, this much is certain: Florida voters are turning out for the primary. More voters cast early and absentee ballots during early and absentee voting in these primaries than in the 2016 general election.

Slightly more than 300,000 votes have been cast in Miami-Dade and in Broward County, where early voting turnout was the highest in the state.

— David Smiley

Read more here.

Trump stumps in gov’s race

“Hello, this is President Donald Trump. My friend Ron DeSantis is running for governor of the great state of Florida. I love Florida. I fully endorsed Ron in tomorrow’s election,” the president says in an unusually long robo-call touting the GOP candidate.

— Adam Smith

Read more here.

Two Tallahasseeans and Beach’s Levine

Polls find Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum gaining on front-runners Gwen Graham and Philip Levine, closing the gap within five points with as many as 10 percent of voters still undecided in the Democratic race for governor.

— James Call

Read more here.





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