Election Day Live: Voters head to polls for South Florida’s primary

Campaign workers approach a voter in his car with candidate literature at the Polish-American Club of Miami.
Campaign workers approach a voter in his car with candidate literature at the Polish-American Club of Miami. cmguerreo@miamiherald.com

▪ For a look at returns, reactions and results, follow our election night live coverage.

For a guide to early numbers in the Miami-Dade mayor race, look to 2012

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez needs to top 50 percent in today’s non-partisan primary to end the election and win another four years as head of Florida's largest county. If not, he and the second-place finisher — polls consistently show that to be school-board member Raquel Regalado — head for a November run-off.

The final results will tell the story in the seven-candidate race, but the first wave of absentee-ballot numbers released after county polls close at 7 p.m. will offer a decent yardstick of how Gimenez is performing compared to the last time he sought reelection.

To read more, click here.

—Douglas Hanks

South Florida loves democracy .... until it gets us wet

5:15 p.m.: A wet blanket that has hung all day over South Florida is certain to dampen election day turnout, raising questions about whether the weather will impact tight races.

Some cities have been under a torrential downpour as a tropical depression sends squalls through South Florida, keeping voters from the polls, and in at least one case briefly causing problems on-site. A precinct at Miami Gardens Elementary School briefly lost power, but elections department spokeswoman Vivian Suarez said all voters were able to cast their ballots.

Political consultant Steve Marin said he has visited popular election day sites at St. Timothy Catholic Church and Kinloch Park, and voters are few and far between compared to normal election day results. He said even the precinct on Key Biscayne, the most active election day site in the county, is depressed.

“It’s an ugly day for turnout,” he said.

That means candidates who led a strong absentee ballot game gain an advantage. Conversely, candidates relying on election day turnout for a bump may disappointed. And in close races, or races with multiple candidates on the ballot, like the Democratic primary for Senate District 38, some consultants believe the rain could be a deciding factor.

“I bet you there isn't a lot of difference between first and second place,” consultant Randy Hilliard said of the race, “and I think the rain today doesn't help [well-funded candidate Jason] Pizzo.”

The race for Miami-Dade mayor is among the elections politicos are watching to see if depressed election day turnout will have an impact. Polls have all shown Mayor Carlos Gimenez ahead of lead challenger Raquel Regalado, but with seven candidates on the ballot, the question is whether he’ll earn the 50 percent-plus-one needed to avoid a November runoff, in which turnout is certain to be much higher.

“One area to watch is the African American vote, which skews more to early and election day. That could play a factor in the county mayor's race,” said consultant Christian Ulvert. “I think everybody is confident the mayor is going to win reelection, but does he win Aug 30 or Nov 8?”

Regalado, for the record, was quoted today by WPLG’s Erica Rakow saying she’ll win if there’s a runoff.

—David Smiley (w/ Alex Harris)

Senate candidates say campaign workers crossing the line

3:45 p.m.: Grrrr. Some of the candidates running in the Democratic primary for State Senate District 38 are getting a little frustrated with the behavior of campaign workers at the Uleta Community Center precinct in North Miami Beach and one of their opponents at the North Miami Library.

—David Smiley

Protest votes against former DNC chair, Wasserman Schultz

2:30 p.m.: In Hollywood, some voters backing Nova Southeastern University law professor Tim Canova for Congress expressed disgust with how U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz ran the Democratic National Committee.

She resigned her chair position in July after WikiLeaks published thousands of emails showing that the DNC favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Luann Hoffman, a 59-year-old accountant from Hollywood, voted for Canova over Wasserman Schultz as a protest over the DNC emails.

“I’m not necessarily against Debbie — it was a little bit of a protest vote about how she behaved,” Hoffman said. “I am a Hillary supporter, but I don’t think Bernie was treated fairly. I’ve always voted for Debbie. ... I felt like she needed to know people are paying attention to this behavior.”

In Century Village in Pembroke Pines, James Vanvoris said he voted for Canova because as DNC chair she “hand-picked” Clinton rather than letting the voters decide. He supported Sanders.

“Despite all the good things Debbie Wasserman Schultz has done down here, I think that one thing was enough to disqualify her because she showed a complete misunderstanding — and I hate to use the word — and abuse of the system,which should have disqualified her for serving in public office,” Vanvoris said.

Supporters of Wasserman Schultz cited her power and ties to Clinton and Obama and long tenure in politics as well as her efforts to get to know local residents in their neighborhoods where she is simply known as “Debbie.”

Wasserman Schultz won her first race for the state Legislature in 1992 and her first Congressional race in 2004. Some who cast ballots for her criticized her actions as DNC chair while others said it didn’t bother them.

“She has the power to get things done,” said Brian Thalwitzer, a 65-year-old retired construction worker from Hollywood. As for the DNC scandal, “people screwed up beneath her. She screwed up a little bit.”

Frances Skupsky, a retired office manager in Pembroke Pines, said she appreciated Wasserman Schultz’s efforts to help seniors in Century Village.

“ It would take [Canova] years to do in Congress what she's done,” she said. “Why start with a newbie when you have someone who's working?”

As for the DNC, the buck stops with Wasserman Schultz.

“Things can get by you when you're the boss,” Skupsky said. “That doesn't bother me. I have no problem with her. I like her experience and what I've read about her over the years. I like her loyalty to the party too.”

Miami Herald staff writers Amy Sherman and George Richards

“Best of two evils”

1:30 p.m.: Nelson Delgado said he has not missed an election in 40 years. On Tuesday, he said he found primary voting at West Dade Regional Library smooth and quick — unlike in the 2012 general election, when he stood in line for about seven hours to cast his ballot.

Delgado, 57, a Republican, said he doesn’t believe in straight-ticket voting and instead looks for the best person for the position. For that reason, he said he voted against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s reelection bid.

Rubio is “constantly changing” his positions, Delgado said. While he understands that Rubio was once in the middle of a presidential campaign, the Florida Republican didn’t pay enough attention to his Senate job. “His record does not support” his reelection, he said.

Delgado's biggest dilemma, though, was deciding on whom to vote for Miami-Dade County mayor. Incumbent Carols Gimenez’ record is “reactive rather than proactive,” he said. The mayor seems to wait for a problem to grow before taking action, such as the radioactive leaks at FPL’s Turkey Point nuclear facility.

But his main challenger, Raquel Regalado, doesn’t have enough of a record to prove she’s up to the job, he said.

“It's like voting for the best of two evils,” Delgado said.

— Michelle Marchante, South Florida News Service

Voters opt for Regalado over Gimenez for county mayor

1:30 p.m.: Maria Elena Lazo arrived at the West End Regional Library Tuesday accompanied by her son.

Lazo, a Republican, said she voted for Raquel Regalado for Miami-Dade County mayor because she wanted to give her a chance against the incumbent, Carlos Gimenez.

“Gimenez raised taxes,” Lazo, 46, said, “so I want her to give her that opportunity to change things.”

— Alexandra Rodriguez, South Florida News Service

Roberto Fernandez, who left Cuba for the United States in 1961 as part of Operation Peter Pan, is a Democrat.

“To change things up a bit,” Fernandez said he chose Raquel Regalado for Miami-Dade County mayor in Tuesday’s primary, saying he feels the incumbent, Carlos Gimenez, is arrogant.

Fernandez also said he picked Patrick Murphy for U.S. Senate because of his affiliation with former Florida Gov. Bob Graham.

“Any friend of his is a friend of mine,” said Fernandez, 69, who voted at the New Beginnings Church in Homestead.

— Lizandra Portal, South Florida News Service

Others stick with Mayor Carlos Gimenez

1:30 p.m.: Rebecca Perez, 20, was one of the few younger voters at the the West Dade Regional Library Tuesday.

The after-school teacher said she voted to give Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez another term.

“I like his policies and he's the current mayor,” Perez, a Republican, said. “I like what he's done.”

When it came to the U.S. Senate race, there was only one plausible option for her: Marco Rubio, the incumbent Miami Republican.

“He shares the same beliefs that I do,” said Perez. “And I really like how he puts family views first.”

— Michelle Marchante, South Florida News Service

Emmanuel Bastos showed up to his polling location at Hialeah Gardens Middle School on his way to work Tuesday.

Bastos, 49, a code enforcement officer in Miami Beach, said he has no party affiliation because “I like to vote for the right candidate, not be attached to one.” Though independent, he said he leans toward conservative policies.

Bastos said he voted for current Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez over challenger Raquel Regalado.

“I favor a more fiscally conservative policy and since 2011 I have seen the county grow under his watch,” jhe said.

He said he also voted to reelect U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio because he believes the Republican has the state and country’s best interests at heart.

— Brandon Gonzalez, South Florida News Service

More ducks than voters at polls

Noon: A sign of low voter turnout: Republican Charles Stuart, who cast his ballot at the Homestead Branch Library in Tuesday’s primary, couldn’t help but notice there were “more ducks than people” at the polling place.

Stuart said he voted for Marco Rubio, one-time GOP presidential candidate, to retain his seat in the U.S. Senate — though he added he doesn’t agree with his immigration policies.

As for mayor of Miami-Dade County, Stuart said he voted for Raquel Regalado. She was a classmate in elementary school, he said. In addition to that personal connection, Stuart said he agrees with her plans to to help smaller communities create a stronger job base.

— Lizandra Portal, South Florida News Service

Who’s who on the ballot?

Noon: Kendall resident Zelina Hosein said she did not recognize many candidates’ names on the primary ballot Tuesday at the West End Regional Library.

Nonetheless, the 72-year-old decided to keep loyal to her party and only vote for Democrats, saying she was satisfied with their work in local and state government.

Hosein did recognize a few names: U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy and Annette Taddeo, who is running for the House of Representatives.

“I voted for Murphy because I saw some advertisements of his, and I chose Annette because she’s a woman,” Hosein said.

— Yaneli Gonzalez, South Florida News Service

Primary voters cast ballots in local, state and congressional races

7 a.m.: Miami-Dade County officials said they were “Election Ready” for primary voters, with poll workers trained, equipment tested and all 851 polling places opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

“Everything was open perfectly,” said Vivian Suarez, assistant deputy supervisor of elections.

She encouraged voters to bring umbrellas. “The rain, obviously we can't control that,” she said. “But we have backups. We're ready.”

In the early afternoon, Miami Gardens Elementary School precinct briefly lost power.

When the electricity went down, Suarez said, the precinct switched to on-site generators while they waited for FPL to fix the power line.

She said “voting was not interrupted.”

A complete list of polling places is available on the Elections Department website.

Polls will close at 7 p.m. Election results will be available on the department’s homepage and on Miami-Dade TV, with the first tallies being reported at 7:15 p.m. and updated every 45 minutes. Mail ballots will be reported first, followed by early voting results and then the Election Day precinct totals.

Through Sunday, the last day of early voting, 1.7 million people had cast ballots in Florida’s primary, two-thirds of them by mail and the rest at early voting centers. Voting by mail started the last week of July, and early voting began in many urban areas statewide on Aug. 15.

So far, the five counties with the most mail ballots were Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough and Broward. The five with the most early voters were Miami-Dade, Duval, Broward, Palm Beach and Orange.

Statewide, voter turnout in the primary is expected to be low — despite numerous races on the ballot. Among the marquee contests in Miami-Dade: Mayor Carlos Gimenez pitted against challenger Raquel Regalado, along with Republican and Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-West Palm Beach, are expected to prevail in their respective Senate primaries to face off in the general on Nov. 8.

Two other closely watched congressional races: former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia facing Annette Taddeo in a Miami-Dade Democratic primary, and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz versus Nova Southeastern University law professor Tim Canova in a Broward Democratic primary.

Various state legislative, county commission, school board and judicial seats are also being contested grabs in Miami-Dade as well as in Broward.

— Miami Herald staff writers Alex Harris and Jay Weaver