Voters head to the polls as campaigns wrap up
Published: Monday, November 1, 2010 at 11:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 at 11:47 p.m.
A number of prominent Democrats came through Gainesville on Monday with a get-out-the-vote message for their supporters — and their supporters' friends, neighbors and anyone else they can find — ahead of what is forecast to be a rough Election Day for their party.
Polling places open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Anyone in line by 7 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
Check your polling location at www.votealachua.com
WHAT YOU NEED
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Senate hopeful Kendrick Meek stopped by the 43rd Street Deli on Northwest 25th Place as part of his 24-hour statewide campaign tour, while the gubernatorial ticket of Alex Sink and Rod Smith brought former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and current Sen. Bill Nelson with them for a rally at Gators Dockside.
After his pep talk, Smith, an Alachua lawyer and former state senator and prosecutor, grabbed Sink's hand and held it in the air, as if preparing for a scheduled victory party tonight in Tampa.
But Dan Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida, said Democrats could have few reasons to celebrate today, with recent polls showing some in neck-and-neck races and others way behind.
"I think it's going to be a pretty grim night for Democrats across the state," Smith said.
Rick Scott and his running mate, state Rep. Jennifer Carroll, were in Newberry on Thursday for the Alachua County GOP's annual Ronald Reagan Black Tie and Blue Jeans BBQ.
Stafford Jones, the chairman of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee, said he didn't expect his party's candidates to be in this area so close to the election but was pleasantly surprised how many turned out for the barbecue.
But on Monday and today, Jones said, most are concentrating on the Interstate 4 corridor, stretching from Tampa Bay to Daytona Beach, or South Florida.
Both sides have said the gubernatorial race is crucial to the state's future, but local eyes also will be on the race for Florida Senate District 14 between Democrat Perry C. McGriff Jr. and Republican incumbent Steve Oelrich, who have been in a heated war of words — and advertising — for weeks.
Dan Smith said the race was likely the most expensive legislative race for the two state parties and that the ads have been "very, very hostile."
As of Monday, internal polls showed the race to be a dead heat, he said.
In addition to the heated races between candidates, today's ballot also will contain a number of proposed state amendments that have generated debate — such as Amendment No. 4, which would establish "hometown democracy," and Amendment No. 8, which would revise school class-size limits. Six county referendums are on the ballot as well as an ordinance establishing a curfew for airboat operators.
Intrigue also has surrounded the two Alachua County Commission races, particularly the District 4 contest between Democratic incumbent Cynthia Chestnut, the chairwoman of the board, and Republican challenger Susan Baird.
Trying to become the first Republican on the commission since 2000, Baird has some momentum heading into Election Day after picking up the endorsement of Sheriff Sadie Darnell, a Democrat who has appeared in campaign ads for her, and raising more money than Chestnut, who is seeking her third term.
Chestnut and a host of other local Democrats were among the 300 who packed into Gators Dockside to see Sink and Rod Smith before they left for the key battlegrounds of Sarasota and Orlando, where they were scheduled to campaign with Meek and former President Bill Clinton.
Still, Rod Smith said the Gainesville area could mean the difference.
"This election is going to boil down to 100,000 votes, and Gainesville is going to be the place that elects the next governor of Florida," he said. "I hope about 9 o'clock (tonight), Alachua County hadn't come in yet, and I hope the vote's real close going in. And I'm going to tell ya, about that time Alachua County's going to come in, North Central Florida is going to come in, and we're going to blow ‘em out."
The consummate Gator, Smith referenced the University of Florida football team's win 34-31 over the University of Georgia on Saturday to illustrate that a slim margin of victory is just as good.
"Someone said: ‘Well, the poll came out today and had you just three points ahead. Is that enough?' Ask Georgia," he said. "Three points is wonderful for Florida."