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Mitch Perry Report for 11.9.16 — GOP dominance

Where do you begin? One of the biggest political upsets in U.S. history, to start with, in Donald J. Trump beating Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States of America.

Lots of analysis there, including about the Democratic nominee, who for the second time in eight years, thought she had the presidency in her grasp, only to lose out — forever.

What about closer to home? Although Florida Democrats have had huge disappointments in 2010 and 2014 across the board, at least they had 2006, 2008, and 2012. But not 2016.

Down went Patrick Murphy, early into the evening. Down went Clinton, officially losing the state before 10 p.m.

In Hillsborough County, a House District 63 seat that has gone back and forth between Shawn Harrison and a Democrat and Shawn Harrison went this time to … Shawn Harrison, and not Lisa Monteliione.

Ross Spano won over Rena Frazier in HD 59. And Jackie Toledo easily defeated David Singer in the battle for House District 60 in Hillsborough County.

Wipe out city.

Congratulations to Blaise Ingoglia, who from the time he became the RPOF Chairman in early 2015 vowed to turn Florida red, and did so last night.

The Florida Democrats led by Allison Tant and Scott Arceneaux? I really don’t know.

What about Washington? It’s now got the presidency, the House and the Senate. Oh, and the Supreme Court as well, now that Mitch McConnell‘s move to not make a move on replacing Antonin Scalia will pay off big time next year.

In other news …

It was not a good night for Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. In addition to his girl, Hillary, losing in Florida, the mayor’s appeal for city voters to reject the charter amendment on allowing the city council to order internal audits won a smashing victory, 64-36 percent.

The upset of the night in Hillsborough County was Andrew Warren’s narrow victory over Mark Ober for state attorney.

It will be Jim Davison vs. Luis Viera in the special election in Tampa City Council District 7 race.

Charlie Crist defeated David Jolly in their CD 13 battle.

Donald Trump told Jack & Tedd on WFLA 970 yesterday morning he’d go quietly if he lost the election.

Now that he’s in the Senate for another six years, Marco Rubio waxes on how he can help make the political discourse a little more palatable in Washington.

Americans for Prosperity – Florida was one of over 50 groups who spent money in the Florida Senate race. In AFP’s case, they spent more than $2.5 million trying to bring down Patrick Murphy.

Bob Buckhorn was campaigning early yesterday against that charter amendment regarding the city council calling for their own internal audits of city departments.

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Marco Rubio wins second term in U.S. Senate

Sen. Marco Rubio is heading back to Washington D.C.

The Miami Republican defeated Rep. Patrick Murphy in Florida’s U.S. Senate race. According to preliminary election results, Rubio received 52 percent of the vote. Murphy received 45 percent.

The victory caps off a tough political year for Rubio. He faced a devastating loss in his home state in March, coming in second to Donald Trump in Florida’s presidential preference primary.

 “This nation is at a pivotal crossroads and throughout his career, Rubio has proven himself as a steadfast and distinguished conservative leader committed to holding government accountable,” said RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia. “Once again, our great state rewarded the Senator’s dedication to public service and protecting the founding principles of this country.  We look forward to working with him to restore the trust and confidence the American people want to have in their government.”

He jumped into the U.S. Senate race in June, after weeks of brushing off calls and questions about whether he was going to run for re-election. He often cited concerns about the top of the ticket as one of the reasons he was running for a second term.

Rubio spent months fielding questions about his tepid support for Trump and whether he planned to serve a full term if re-elected. In October, he said he would “serve six years in the United States Senate, God willing.”

Despite a big push to turn Florida blue, Murphy failed to gain traction.

The Treasure Coast Democrat was relatively unknown, despite having the support of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden. He trailed Rubio in almost every poll since June, and was dogged by claims he padded his resume.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to be Florida’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. I’m proud of the campaign we built and so grateful for the passion Florida families across the state put in to this fight,” said Murphy in a statement. “While we hoped for a different result, the people of Florida have spoken and I respect their choice. I congratulate Senator Rubio on his victory and on the incredible honor of representing this state again in the U.S. Senate. Floridians are counting on him to fight for them, and he has my support in that fight.”

Murphy was first elected in 2012 to serve in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. He unseated Republican Rep. Allen West, and easily won re-election two years later. But his campaign was plagued by criticism of his limited accomplishments during his time in office.

Murphy said he is “grateful to the people of Florida’s 18th District for putting their trust in me over the past four years.”

“I will always remain true to that promise, and I will always fight for Florida,” he said.

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On eve of election, Marco Rubio says it’s up to those in public office to inject more ‘responsible discourse’

Even before the end of this presidential election cycle, lots of Americans are concerned about how hard it might be to heal the divisions exposed in this country following the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton battle.

That includes Marco Rubio, who said Monday it’s not lawmakers in Washington who have to learn to get along better, but the public itself.

“We’ve reached a point in our political discourse where it’s not enough to disagree. People now believe that if someone has an opinion that you don’t agree with, then they’re a bad person. You have to delegitimize them as a person, and I hope we can pull back for a little bit,” Rubio said in speaking to two reporters who hung out until the end of his campaign stop with volunteers at the Hillsborough County Republican Party headquarters in Brandon.

A poll conducted by Monmouth University last month laid out those divisions starkly. It reported 70 percent of American voters say this year’s presidential campaign has brought out the worst in people. Only 4 percent say it has brought out the best in people. Another 5 percent said it had done a little of both, while 20 percent say it had done neither. Democrats (78 percent), Republicans (65 percent), and independents (66 percent) agree the 2016 campaign has brought out the worst in people.

Perhaps most depressingly, the poll found 7 percent of Americans reported losing a friend over this election. Slightly more Clinton supporters than Trump supporters reported losing friends.

“We have to be able to have the capacity to have debates over tough issues without ending up hating the people on the other side of it, and we’ve reached a very dangerous point in our politics where, I’m not just talking about political figures, I’m talking about everyday people, longtime friendships … have ended over a presidential campaign and over a political debate,” Rubio said. “We’re not going to be able to solve problems if we hate each other.”

“We can disagree on things,” the Florida GOP senator added. “We’ve always been a country with strong disagreements. But if we’re a nation where we’re literally at people’s throats, over every issue, we’re not going to be able to make a lot of progress. And so I hope that those of us who are in public service will do our part to try to inject more responsible discourse into our politics.”

Rubio will learn later on Tuesday whether he’ll spend the next six years commuting from Miami to Washington D.C. as Florida’s junior senator — or six more weeks, if Democrat Patrick Murphy can upset him in their contest for U.S. Senate.

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Americans for Prosperity spends more than $2.5 million to effort to defeat Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy frequently bashed Marco Rubio on the campaign trail this fall as a “puppet of the Koch Brothers,” citing the 98 percent grade he received from Americans for Prosperity, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit political advocacy group considered the political arm of Charles and David Koch.

In fact, AFP’s Florida chapter announced Monday they knocked on more than one million doors and spoke to over three million people on the phone in their effort to defeat Murphy’s bid for U.S. Senate. They also launched a website, PayMorePatrickMurphy.com along with TVdigital, and mail ads to try to ensure the Treasure Coast Democrat doesn’t win tonight’s U.S. Senate race against Rubio. It’s unusual in the respect that the group is best known for working on legislative issues at the state level, and has rarely become involved in Florida electoral politics.

“The majority of our work is not that world at all,” admits Andres Malave, a spokesperson for AFP-Florida. He hints that may be changing in the future, however.

“We usually focus on state issues, and as we in Florida continue to grow, we’re now, I think, at a point where we’re going to start doing a lot more work to try to impact the work of our federal delegation, and certainly the senators,” he said, but admits that when it comes to a direct advocacy campaign such as what they’ve employed against Murphy, “we have not partaken in it a lot.”

One exception was in 2012, when the group spent money in direct advocacy in Florida against the re-election of President Obama. 

Andres said the same issues AFP-Florida opposes in the state were obvious targets against Murphy, referring to opposition to a “pay-to-play attitude,” corporate welfare, and acceptance of the Affordable Care Act. “All of those boxes Patrick Murphy checked. And for us it was just an opportunity to rally our base and make them understand why it was so critical to keep him out.”

AFP-Florida was one of more than 50 outside groups to spend money in the U.S. Senate campaign. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Americans for Prosperity had spent more than $2.5 million into the Florida Senate race.

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It’s not the party, it’s the after party: Where to find Tampa Bay candidates on election night

Election night parties will be raging across the state Tuesday. For some, it’s a chance to pop some bottles and celebrate. For others, it will be a somber event, marking the last hurrah of a long, hard-fought campaign.

Want to party like a politician? Here’s a rundown of where candidates will be as the polls close.

U.S. Senate

It was one of the most-watched U.S. Senate races this election cycle. And on Tuesday night, both Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy will be toasting the crowd in South Florida.

Rubio will attend an election night party at the Hilton Miami Airport, 5101 Blue Lagoon Drive in Miami. The party is expected to begin around 6:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Murphy will be in Palm Beach Gardens. The Democrat is set to attend an election night party at the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott, 4000 RCA Blvd. in Palm Beach Gardens. The doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Rubio has consistently led in the polls since announcing his re-election bid in June. Outside groups have poured millions of dollars into the race to re-elect Rubio; Murphy had the backing of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Although not on the ballot, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will join Hillary for Florida supporters for an election night watch party in Tampa at the Florida Ballroom, 2nd Floor, Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, 700 South Florida Avenue. After a day of Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts, attendees will watch Clinton deliver remarks to supporters and volunteers at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Joining Nelson will be U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, state Rep. Ed Narain and state Rep.-Elect Sean Shaw.

U.S. House

CD 12 — Rep. Gus Bilirakis will hold his election night party at the St. Nicholas Cathedral Center, 348 N. Pinellas Ave. in Tarpon Springs. The fun begins at 6:30 p.m., and will include a visit from Shalyah Fearing, a semifinalist on NBC’s The Voice. Bilirakis faces Democrat Robert Matthew Tager in the general election.

gus-bilirakis

CD 13 — Rep. David Jolly will hold his election night party in the grand ballroom at The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, 501 5th Ave. NE in St. Petersburg. The fun begins at 6 p.m. Jolly faces former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Democrat, in the general election.

jolly-party-vinoy

CD 18 — Republican Brian Mast will hold his election night party at Spoto’s Oyster Bar, 131 SW Flagler Ave. in Stuart. The party kicks off at 6 p.m. Democrat Randy Perkins is holding his party at Big Apple Pizza, 2311 S. 35th St. in Fort Pierce. Perkins’ party is expected to begin around 7 p.m.

CD 19 — Republican Francis Rooney will hold his election night party at Bistro 41, 13499 Cleveland Ave. in Fort Myers. The party begins at 6 p.m. Rooney faces Democrat Robert M. Neeld in the general election.

State Senate/House

SD 16 — Team Latvala — Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala and his son, first-term state Rep. Chris Latvala — will be holding a joint election night Party beginning 7 p.m. at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N. NcMullen Booth Rd. in Clearwater. The elder Latvala is running unopposed in SD 16.

team-latvala

SD 18 – Florida House Majority Leader Dana Young is holding her Election Night Watch Party beginning 6 p.m. at Pane Rustica, 3225 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. No RSVP is necessary. Young is running in the newly drawn Senate District 18 against Democrat Bob Buesing, as well as no-party-affiliated candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove.

dana-young-watch-party

HD 63 – Democrat Lisa Montelione is hosting an Election Night Watch Party at Mr. Dunderbaks, 14929 Bruce B Downs Blvd. in Tampa. Party begins at 6:30 p.m., and is free and open to the public. Food will be provided and there will be a cash bar. Montelione, a former Tampa City Councilwoman, faces incumbent Republican Shawn Harrison in HD 63.

HD 66/HD 67/HD 68 — The Republican Party of Pinellas County holds its joint-candidate Election Night Watch Party at the St. Petersburg Hilton, 950 Lake Carillion Dr. in Clearwater. Doors open at 6 p.m., with a cash bar. In attendance will be State Rep. Larry Ahern, who is running for re-election in House District 66, facing Democrat Lorena Grizzle. Chris Latvala is also scheduled to make an appearance. Latvala is running for re-election in House District 67, facing Democrat David Vogel. Also at the Hilton event will be JB Bensmihen, who faces Democrat Ben Diamond in House District 68.

multi-candidate-victory-party

HD 69 — Rep. Kathleen Peters will host an election night party at Middle Grounds Grill, 10925 Gulf Boulevard in Treasure Island. The party begins at 6:30 p.m.

kathleen-peters

HD 70 — Former St. Petersburg City Councilmember Wengay Newton will host an election night Watch Party for his campaign in Florida House District 70 beginning 6:30 p.m. at The Hangar Restaurant & Flight Lounge in downtown St. Pete. The Hangar is located at the Albert Whitted Airport Terminal, 540 1st St. SE. Second Floor in St. Petersburg. RSVP at 727-823-PROP.

screencapture-file-f-wengay-newton

County races

Pinellas County Commission District 3 — Mike Mikurak will also make an appearance at the Republican Party of Pinellas County event at the St. Petersburg Hilton. Mikuriak is running against incumbent Democrat Charlie Justice.

Hillsborough County Commission District 6 — Pat Kemp holds her watch party at the Italian Club in Ybor City, 1731 E. 7th Ave. in Tampa. The party begins at 6:30 p.m.

pat-kemp-watch-party

Hillsborough County Property Appraiser — Bob Henriquez holds his election watch party at the Outpost, 909 W. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa. Event begins at 7 p.m. with live music, food and a cash bar. RSVP at www.Henriquez2016.com. Henriquez is running for re-election against first-time candidate Todd Jones, who is a private-sector appraiser.

bob-henriquez

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New Florida poll shows Hillary Clinton with 3-point lead over Donald Trump, tight race between Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy

A new poll of likely Florida voters gives Hillary Clinton one of her largest leads in weeks.

According to a new poll from St. Pete Polls, Clinton holds a 3-point lead over Republican Donald Trump in the Sunshine State. The poll of 2,319 likely Florida voters shows Clinton at 48 percent, followed by Trump at 45 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson received 3 percent support, while Green Party candidate Jill Stein got 1 percent.

About 2 percent of respondents said they were voting for someone else.

The automated email/web survey was conducted Nov. 1 through No. 6. The voters were chosen at random within the registered voter population in Florida, and has a margin of error of 2 percent.

The poll gives Clinton a much larger lead in the Sunshine State than she’s enjoyed in weeks. In a four-way race, Trump currently holds an average lead of 0.2 percentage points in Florida, according to RealClearPolitics.

The polling aggregation website shows Clinton led Trump by either 1 or 2 percentage points in four of the last seven polls used as to determine polling averages. The two candidates were tied in a recent CBS News/YouGov poll, while Trump led Clinton by either 3 or 4 percentage points in two polls.

According to the St. Pete Polls survey, Clinton has the support of 45 percent of independent voters, 88 percent of black voters, and 58 percent of Hispanic voters. Trump is backed by 41 percent of independent voters, 54 percent of white voters, and 49 percent of males.

While the St. Pete Polls survey showed Clinton pulling ahead, it showed a much closer race between Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy. The poll showed Rubio and Murphy were essentially tied, with Murphy at 46.2 percent and Rubio at 45.5 percent.

That runs contrary to most other polls conducted this election cycle. The Miami Republican has led in nearly every poll since he announced he was running for re-election in June. Three polls conducted since June 25 showed the two men tied, according to RealClearPolitics. Rubio led in all of the other polls used by RealClearPolitics to calculate the polling average.

RealClearPolitics currently shows Rubio with an average 3.2 percentage point lead over Murphy.

St. Pete Polls showed 46 percent of respondents said they planned to vote for Amendment 1, the solar power amendment, while 42 percent said they did not plan to vote for it. Nearly 9 percent of voters said they were unsure; while 3 percent indicated they would skip the amendment.

There appears to be widespread support for Amendment 2, the medical marijuana ballot initiative. The poll found 70 percent of voters said they planned to vote for it, compared to 25 percent who said they would be voting no. About 4 percent were unsure, while nearly 2 percent indicated they would skip the ballot measure.

Both constitutional amendments need 60 percent of the vote to pass.

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It’s likely to be a close election in Florida, again

Another close election in Florida? Count on it.

Through Friday, 2,268,663 Democrats and 2,261,383 Republicans had cast ballots by mail or at early voting sites – a difference of 7,280 in favor of Democrats. Overall, more than 5.7 million Floridians have voted, or nearly 45 percent of those registered. That far surpasses 2012 totals, when 4.8 million Floridians cast ballots before Election Day.

As early voting was set to end in 51 of Florida’s 67 counties Saturday, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump once again were campaigning in the Sunshine State. Their running mates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence and other top surrogates have been frequent visitors in the state that’s a must-win for Trump’s presidential campaign.

“How many of you have already voted?” Clinton asked a crowd in Broward County. The response was enthusiastic cheers. “OK, so that means you’ve got time to get everybody else to get out and vote, right?”

Earlier in Tampa, Trump told supporters at a rally that 66 of the state’s 67 counties supported him in Florida’s primary last March.

“Florida is just a place I love – my second home, I’m here all the time. I might know Florida better than you do,” Trump said. “I see maybe more enthusiasm right now than I did (in March).”

Florida’s 29 electoral votes are the biggest prize in Tuesday’s presidential election among states that could swing to either candidate. In 2000, Florida set the standard for close presidential elections when George W. Bush beat Al Gore by 537 votes out of about 6 million cast. It took five weeks to call the election in the state that determined the presidency.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was campaigning across north Florida Saturday, starting with an event at a Pensacola Beach bar. He’s being challenged by Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Unlike Murphy, Rubio has avoided campaigning with his party’s presidential nominee. While he supports Trump, he has condemned his words and behavior.

Murphy attended a Broward County rally with Clinton and later planned to attend a St. Petersburg concert with singer Jon Bon Jovi and Kaine.

While only 16 counties will continue early voting on Sunday, they are some of the state’s largest, including Democratic strongholds of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. Democrats were planning “souls to the polls” events encouraging African-American churchgoers to take advantage of the last day of early voting in the counties where polls will be open.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Tom Jackson: At our time of choosing, will we guess wrong?

And so, at last, it is upon us. Election Day. Time, fence-sitters, to decide.

We’ve been counting down so long, all the way back to the spring of last year; it sometimes seemed we’d never get here.

Great nation that we (still) are, however, propelled by momentum and time-honored systems that guide truer than any GPS, we’ve navigated the distance: From the GOP’s scrum-debates of last fall through the frigid caucuses and first primaries, through the snooze-fest conventions and the increasing post-Labor Day urgency, to here, this day, this moment.

The choice apparent record numbers of voters have been pushing off — and who can blame them, really — is now. Time to choose. Time to commit.

Time, if the dug-in partisans who’ve been slinging varieties of the same invective on your Facebook page since before Memorial Day, to decide … and to discover if the progression of events has assumed the role of the Man In Black and this truly is our iocane-powder moment.

Will we, too, guess wrong no matter what? Is this a land war in Asia or, worse, going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line? Or has the United States, buoyed by the genius of its shared-authority Constitution, spent the last two-plus centuries building up an immunity to two equally poisonous goblets of wine?

My money is on Mr. Madison’s antidote of checks and balances, as well as the resilience of the American people who, as Winston Churchill once said, always can be counted on to do the right thing … once all other possibilities are exhausted.

Not that the choice still lurking for those of us — including me — who reserve and hallow Election Day for the vigorous exercising of our franchise, has improved, or, frankly, even clarified, with the approach and, at last, arrival of today.

The negative campaign messengers have convinced me. One is an orange, helmet-haired xenophobe with a dismal moral character who lashes out in unpredictable fashion as it suits him. But he has lovely children. The other is the most corrupt candidate for high office in any reputable historian’s memory, whose corrosive appetite for power is exacerbated by Nixonian characteristics: paranoia and vengefulness. But Chelsea seems OK.

In a change election, in a nation whose inhabitants, by more than 2-to-1, ache for a new direction, our top picks for president each seems a perversion. One wouldn’t be where he is without having converted a personal fortune into brand-conscious schtick. The other wouldn’t be where she is without her married last name and the blessing — in an America increasingly organized around group identity — of lady parts.

Given that, it seems perfectly appropriate that the final week swirled around the revelation of fresh correspondence discovered only because the husband of Hillary Clinton’s closest confidant is an apparent serial creep who hoarded his wife’s email on a laptop — and that the whole thing, resolved in record time by the FBI — amounted to nothing.

The entire affair almost seemed a feint, a dodge, a misdirection play, mischief from the nation’s chief investigative team. Imagine Director James Comey as Johnny, pulling the plug on the runway lights in “Airplane.” Just kidding.

Well. You can believe that if you want to.

Meanwhile, in Michigan and Pennsylvania Sunday night, Donald Trump, to the cheers of those who skipped Economics 101, resumed his pledge to punish U.S.-based companies that attempt to move or outsource.

Hoo, boy.

The whole thing tempts you to leave the top of the ballot blank, and dive straight into the foundational races.

Will Floridians renew Marco Rubio’s political lease? (They should.) In Pinellas County, will David Jolly’s against-the-grain legislative and campaign styles usher him past the latest iteration of Charlie Crist while showing Republicans a possible new way forward in their (presumed) post-Trump era?

In north Tampa, will the GOP’s Shawn Harrison have stitched together a sufficient number of disparate supporters to hold off Democrat Lisa Montelione in the mixed blessing that is state House District 63? Or will his history as the Legislature’s perpetual freshman — winning off-year elections, losing during presidential years — endure?

And will we, as is prudent, reject all attempts to amend the Florida Constitution at the ballot box? … Or will we face Wednesday’s new dawn having acquired a malady covered by medical pot, and be happy for the hippy dippy wisdom of the state’s voters?

Strap in. At long, long last, Election Day is here, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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Mitch Perry Report for 11.8.16 — Getting the results before the polls close

The last presidential contest I really didn’t pay that much attention to was back in 1980, but I do remember this: I was in high school, and I had the TV on but the sound down when Jimmy Carter came out at around 6:15 PST to announce he was conceding the election. It was pretty early in the evening, but it was obvious Carter wasn’t going to catch up to Ronald Reagan that night.

Although Carter wanted to get the misery over with, his early concession speech angered people in California on the West Coast, where there were still hours before the polls closed. Every election since then (except for those that went into overtime), have not been declared by the networks and the Associated Press until 11 p.m. Eastern, when all the polls are closed.

That is supposed to change tonight.

As reported by POLITICO on Monday, “Slate and Vice News have partnered with Votecastr, a company helmed by Obama and Bush campaign veterans, to provide real-time projections of how the candidates are faring in each state throughout the day. They expect to begin posting projections at 8 a.m. Eastern time on Election Day — a dramatic departure from current practice, where representatives from a consortium of news organizations (The Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News) huddle in a quarantine room without cell phones, poring over the earliest exit poll data but declining to release anything that points to an election result until all the polls have closed.”

POLITICO also will be working with Morning Consult to conduct a survey of voters after they have cast ballots. Voters will complete the interviews over the internet, beginning one hour after the polls open in their state. Respondents will be asked whether they have voted, and how they voted: either using early voting, by mail or on Election Day in person. POLITICO and Morning Consult will report on some of the results during the day.

I don’t know what any of this means, but let’s face it: in recent elections, people sit around most of the day on Election Day, with nothing to do with polls being meaningless (“the only poll that matters is on Election Day”) but no returns to review until the early evening.

There is some of that infamous exit poll research the networks will start reporting on after 5 p.m. but we all learned after 2004 not to take them too seriously, right, President Kerry?

Personally, I’ll be interested in some House races in Hillsborough County which could go either way — in House Districts 59, 60, and 63.

Have a great day.

In other news …

HART CFO Jeff Seward is going to the International Climate Change Conference in the U.K. next spring, the first representative from a North American transit agency to be invited to the annual event.

On the eve of a Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission meeting on a temporary agreement with Uber and Lyft, a limousine company based in Tampa says they want to become a ridesharing company as well, and is going to court to challenge the agency.

Marco Rubio made a last-day campaign appearance in Brandon yesterday, where he said he thinks the increase in Latino voters in the early vote bodes well for his chances tonight.

Eric Seidel is thinking he can peel off some wayward Democrats in his bid to defeat Pat Frank in the Hillsborough County Clerk of the Courts race tonight.

In a Vice News interview last night, Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the Bernie Sanders campaign made her into a “bogeyman” for her role at the DNC.

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Ex-Gov. Charlie Crist aims for political comeback in House

It’s a sunny fall day at Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg, and Charlie Crist is in his element.

“What’s your name?,” he purrs to a woman in a wheelchair, taking her hand. He beams a white smile that matches his snow-white hair, contrasting with his tan face. “May I get a picture?” he asks, bending down on one knee. The woman giggles.

Crist, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, is a former governor, former state attorney general and was on the short list to be Sen. John McCain‘s vice presidential running mate in 2008. This year, he’s setting his sights on a seat in the U.S. House.

Democrats are counting on Crist and other candidates to make significant inroads into the Republicans’ commanding House majority. Florida offers at least three potential Democratic gains as the party tries to cobble together a 30-seat pickup.

Crist, a 60-year-old lawyer, faces Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. David Jolly. The race may be one of the few nationally in which the Republican candidate is using Donald Trump against the Democrat, noting that Trump helped Crist raise money when he was with the GOP.

“It’s a crazy year,” Crist says.

He hopes it’s his year.

Crist has the hometown advantage — he was raised in St. Petersburg — and is running in a redrawn district that includes more African-Americans.

Jolly, who has represented the 13th Congressional District since 2014, is hoping Crist’s complicated political past will make him vulnerable.

“The fundamental issue is trust. Everybody knows Charlie, they know he’s been on every side of the issue,” Jolly says. “By most polls, this will be a neck-and-neck race.”

A recent poll by St. Pete Polls shows Crist with a narrow lead, while another tally by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory at the University of North Florida shows Crist leading Jolly 54 percent to 36.

Crist, who was governor from 2007 to 2011, ran for Senate as a Republican in 2010 but lost to Marco Rubio in the primary. Crist quit the Republican Party, ran in the general election as an independent and lost. He switched party affiliation again, becoming a Democrat, and ran unsuccessfully for governor against Rick Scott in 2014.

The 43-year-old Jolly has his own complications. He earlier had announced he would run for U.S. Senate, but when Rubio dropped out of the presidential race and said he would run for re-election, Jolly got out of that race.

Jolly says his biggest accomplishments are taking on campaign finance reform and backing a bill that would prohibit members of Congress from directly soliciting campaign contributions.

Jolly set himself apart from many Republicans by refusing to fundraise for the national party while working in Washington. And he refuses to endorse Trump.

“I’ve been fully abandoned by the Republican Party,” Jolly said. Still, he’s done pretty well with fundraising; as of Sept. 30, he’s raised $1.75 million to Crist’s $1.4 million. But Crist is getting help from the Democratic Party and other political action committees.

And Trump has become another flashpoint in the campaign.

In September, Jolly released a video that says Trump helped Crist raise money several times when Crist was a Republican.

And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aired television ads using doctored photos to make it appear Jolly and Trump are pals. Only this week did Crist denounce the ad.

That negative ad turned some Crist voters off.

“I may end up voting for Jolly out of spite for the Democrats putting out negative information,” said Joe Jordan, a 36-year-old IT professional.

Crist touts his record on education, the economy and the environment, and says he supports a woman’s right to choose.

In the St. Petersburg park, he smiles at Velva Lee Heraty and her miniature Shih Tzu. Heraty shows him photos of when he walked little Miss Nena outside a cafe.

“That was two years ago,” Heraty says.

Crist gives her a serious look. That’s when Gov. Scott defeated him by a single percentage point.

“Two years ago. We’re hoping for a better result this time,” Crist says.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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