Tampa Bay area primary wrapup

08/27/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Tuesday's primary election drew the lowest statewide voter turnout for a primary in at least 50 years, and perhaps the lowest ever.

In Hillsborough County, a paltry 4 percent showed up at the polls. There were also problems with returns coming in on time.

In congressional races, attorney and military veteran Bill Mitchell won a close race against John Dicks in the Democratic District 9 race, winning by just 177 votes. Third place finisher Anita DePalma got 28 percent of the vote.

In recent weeks, Mitchell had criticized Dicks in mailings and television ads over complaints made against the former Plant City mayor, who in a previous career worked as a financial adviser for controversial financial guru Charles Givens.

In District 10, which includes much of Pinellas County, Dunedin Mayor Bob Hackworth is the Democratic candidate who will go up against 38-year incumbent C.W. Bill Young in November. Hackworth took nearly 47 percent of the vote; Samm Simpson was a distant second with 29 percent and Max Linn was third with 24 percent.

In the District 5 Democratic primary, John Russell defeated Carol Castagnero and David Werder, and will once again face Ginny Brown-Waite in the fall. The health care worker, who’ll be facing Brown-Waite for the 3rd straight time, is chomping at the bit. He says priority #1 is to start raising money.

Brown-Waite was verbally chastised by Hillsborough County Sherriff David Gee on Monday, after shee called for a federal investigation after last week’s arrest of a Mexican national in several rape cases.

Hillsborough authorities alerted Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) that Rigoberto Martinez was undocumented earlier this month. But he was released and later raped again.

Browne-Waite sent Sheriff Gee a series of questions, while later calling on the U.S. Attorney’s office to determine whether federal laws were ignored or violated by Hillsborough County officials.

Democrat John Russell calls the action by Brown-Waite "typical."

In state races, in Senate District 23, which includes Sarasota, Charlotte, and a bit of Manatee County, former state representative Nancy Detert narrowly defeated current Rep. Michael Grant in an intense Republican race by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. That’s despite being outspent more than 2-to-1, and with Grant having the endorsement from the state’s top Republican, Gov. Charlie Crist.

In House District 59, which is the inner city of Tampa, including Ybor City, Betty Reed easily shook off a challenge by civil rights attorney Warren Dawson.

In House District 55, which includes Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, Darryl Rouson crushed educator and activist Charles McKenzie, winning by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin.

In local elections, in Pinellas County, District 1, Republican Neil Brickfield beat out Jane Galluci.

And in the extremely competitive Democratic race for the at-large seat District, 3, former St. Pete City Councilwoman Renee Flowers narrowly defeated environmental activist Darden Rice. Out of more than 33,000 votes, Flowers won by just 252 votes. That’s a margin of .76, larger than the .5 margin needed for an automatic recount.

In Hillsborough County, in the District 6 race, financial planner Kevin Beckner defeated environmentalist Denise Layne and entrepreneur Joe Redner. Beckner outspent both his opponents by a 10-1 margin.

Mitch Kates, Beckner’s campaign manager, said the race between Beckner and former professional wrestler Brian Blair will be one of the county's biggest ever.

The openly gay Beckner will face off against Blair, who has sought to ban student-organized protests against bullying gays, and also voted for the controversial ban on gay pride events three years ago,

WMNF attempted to speak with Commissioner Brian Blair today but he did not return our call.

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