Republicans slow to polls on rainy congressional primary election day
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01/14/14 Janelle Irwin and Ashley Whitney
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:
Tags: Mark Bircher, David Jolly, Kathleen Peters, Bill Young, Congress, elections

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Three precincts vote at Feather Sound Community Church near Ulmerton Road.


photo by Ashley Whitney


Tuesday marks the first meaningful primary election for a Pinellas County congressional district in more than forty years. Three Republicans hope to replace Bill Young, who passed away in October after 43 years in Congress. But steady rain may be keeping Republicans from the polls.

Between 8 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, the only people entering a precinct at Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg were parents dropping off their toddlers at an attached Day Care Center. However, at Feather Sound Community Church off Ulmerton Road, a half dozen Republicans cast ballots within fifteen minutes. One of them, William Godfrey voted for David Jolly because he worked with Young.

“Well, he supported the military and our way of life and I agreed with a lot of his philosophies.”

Other Republicans vying for Young’s seat in Congress are State Representative Kathleen Peters and retired Marine Corps Brigadier General Mark Bircher. When asked which of the three candidates had the best shot at winning the election, Godfrey laughed.

“None of them. You want honest answers?

Campaigns for Kathleen Peters and David Jolly have launched ads attacking each other over Obamacare. Peters accused Jolly of lobbying for the health care law, while Jolly highlighted a statement made by Peters last month that she would not vote to repeal the law unless there was another plan. However, Jolly said during a phone interview Tuesday that the party will not be divided.

“Folks like to suggest it was a rough primary. I don’t think it was. It was important that we each draw contrast on where we stand on issues.”

Jolly said no matter who prevails in today’s primary, he’s confident they can come out swinging against Democrat Alex Sink.

“Listen, we know Alex Sink is going to be well-funded. She was hand picked by the Washington Democratic establishment and they’re going to do everything they can to try to win this seat for Washington.”

Libertarian Lucas Overby and a write-in candidate are running in the General Election along with Sink and the winner of today’s primary. Sink has so far raised more than a million dollars and hasn’t had to spend much of it. According to the Federal Election Commission, Jolly has less than $150,000 left in the bank while Bircher and Peters have less than $20,000 each. Republicans like Clearwater resident William Wilson are hoping to keep the Congressional District 13 seat focused on conservative issues.

“I believe that we need to get our budget problems and our deficit problem under control. So, that’s who I’m voting for – people that have indicated they will do it and have a track record of running successful businesses and not being in the tax and spend mode.”

Wilson wouldn’t say who he voted for, though he did use the pronoun ‘he.’ Claire Burandt who voted at from the Kapoc Pavillion in Clearwater wouldn’t voice her pick for Congress either, but said whoever wins needs to get more people back to work.

“I think we need to get more jobs available. I think we need to get people off welfare. I think we have to have incentives to give them something to do because I think they get in the habit of sitting and collecting checks.”

But not every Republican wants to see the seat in Congress stay red.

“I would probably not think that the person that wins today should beat Alex Sink. I voted for the one that I thought if Alex were to lose that would be the lesser of three evils.”

That’s Bill Wadsworth. He and his wife Elizabeth will be voting for Alex Sink on March 11.

“She’s got a background of dealing and negotiating. She was the chief executive officer of Bank of America so I feel that she will have a more level head than the other three.”

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website as of yesterday, more than 33,000 mail-in ballots had been turned in. That’s 19% of registered Republicans in the district. Polls close Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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