Elections

Voters head to the polls for a final say in Florida’s primary election

Polls around Florida open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, kicking off the last 12 hours of voting as Republicans and Democrats choose their nominees in key races.
Polls around Florida open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, kicking off the last 12 hours of voting as Republicans and Democrats choose their nominees in key races. EL NUEVO HERALD

If you’re not one of the nearly two million Floridians who have already voted for governor, Congress, and state and local offices over the last four weeks, then this is your final chance.

Polls around the state open for business at 7 a.m. Tuesday, kicking off the last 12 hours of voting as Republicans and Democrats choose their party nominees in key races. While some candidates will be elected outright, most of the politicians on the ballot are trying to survive primary races in order to continue campaigning for November’s general election.

The headliner on both sides is the race for governor. Democrats are choosing among Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Philip Levine. Republicans are choosing between Palm Coast Congressman Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

If there was anyone still unaware about whom Donald Trump supports in the race, the president recorded a robo-call for his gubernatorial pick and tweeted a reminder Monday.

“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a special person who has done an incredible job. He is running in Tuesdays Primary for Governor of Florida….Strong on Crime, Borders and wants Low Taxes,” he tweeted. “He will be a great Governor and has my full and total Endorsement!”

DeSantis, who has been significantly outspent by Putnam, has relied heavily on Trump’s bully pulpit and a steady rotation of FOX News interviews in staking a lead in the race. A RealClearPolitics average of polls has DeSantis up nearly 7 points on Putnam heading into election day.

On the Democratic side, the same RealClearPolitics formula shows Graham, a former congresswoman who expects to begin the day with an event at Versailles Cuban Bakery in Little Havana, up about 7 points on the field. But recent polling not considered by the site has shown a tighter race, with Levine and perhaps Gillum in striking distance.

King has steadily polled in single digits, and self-funding billionaire Greene all but signaled retreat when he pulled most of his commercials and then announced Monday that he was canceling his election night party and instead watching returns at home with his wife and children.

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 — a presidential year where voters are typically far more engaged than in midterm elections such as this one. Democrats are largely responsible for that surge, although independent voters casting ballots in local elections and open primaries have also turned out at a high clip.

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.

With no competitive primaries standing between the inevitable Rick Scott-Bill Nelson clash in November for U.S. Senate, it’s likely the gubernatorial campaigns are motivating Democratic voters, who saw a predictable rush in early voting over the weekend. Or perhaps Donald Trump.

But there are other races on the ballot. Republican and Democratic voters are setting the general election chessboard for congressional races, and state House and Senate elections. Seats for county commission, school board and local government commissions and councils are also on the ballot, along with several ballot questions in certain municipalities.

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