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Tampa voters voice their opinions on Election Day

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It is Election Day here in Tampa, and while the news so far today has been about the lackluster turnout, registered voters who have taken the time to vote certainly have opinions about some of the folks on the ballot.

It wasn’t exactly bustling at the Seminole Heights Garden Center located on Central Avenue. While one poll worker at noon told us that she had seen about 30 voters come to the polls during the morning, the fact that a reporter was standing (legally) in the parking lot of the facility seemed to be the most interesting part of the day for other poll workers, who made sure to read the rules of where an observer had to stand in order to interview voters.

However, other than District 1 City Council candidate Susan Long (who actually wasn’t even voting, but checking in on activity at the polling place), there was just one voter that came in to vote between 11:50 a.m and 12:30 p.m.

When asked who she voted for in the District 6 race, by far the most closely covered race in the media involving Jackie Toledo, Guido Maniscalco and Tommy Castellano, this voter (also named Susan, but not Susan Long) said, “I voted all male.”

When we asked if that meant Maniscalco or Castellano, she replied, “I voted for the Guido.” When asked why, she said it was because the doctor “who saved my life” had his campaign sign in his parking lot.

She also said she voted for Joe Citro in District 2, though her only reason she gave for that was that he was a man. “I prefer male candidates,” she said. “I find that leadership — some women are good — but for the most part, I have a lack of trust in women leadership.” Citro is running against Julie Jenkins and current Council Chair Charlie Miranda, the front-runner in the race.

Needless to say, this woman told us she wouldn’t be voting for Hillary Clinton, if the former first lady and secretary of state does in fact announce her candidacy in April, as reported.

There was much more activity, relatively speaking, about half a mile up the road on Florida Avenue, at the American Legion Post 111, voting precinct #237.

Ned Averill-Snell, a Tampa-based actor, playwright and novelist (who also said he freelanced for a while at Creative Loafing when this reporter was employed there), wouldn’t say who he voted for in the District 6 race, but did say who he was not voting for.

Looking at a car in the parking lot with a Toledo campaign sign on its passenger door, Averill-Smith said, “My thought about that is Jackie Toledo’s campaign car today here is like a $90,000 Lexus, and that tells me all I need to know about who she’s working for.” He said that Toledo had “spent a lot of money sending me mail.”

When asked about the citywide District 2 race,  Averill-Snell said while he understood some who think that Miranda has been in city government for too long, he didn’t feel that way. “I think he’s been doing the job well, and I think experience counts.”

A thirtysomething-aged woman named Jennifer came out of the polling booth while carrying her child in a stroller. When asked who she favored in the District 6 race, Jennifer refrained from using any names, but got her point across.

“It actually turned out I was more interested in the District 6 race than I thought I was going to be, because it got really heated and nasty towards the end,” she said. “And I had originally thought I was going to vote for one person, and just in the past week changed my mind.”

Why?

“Well, it got really negative when people started attacking each other and when I made the judgment as to who I believe started the attacks, it made me change my mind.”

So make of that what you will.

How about the District 2 race? Did she stick with Charlie Miranda?

“I think Charlie’s been good for the city but I think he’s been on the board for a very long time, so it might be nice to see some fresh blood. So,” she said, rather ambiguously.

A man named Gerald told Florida Politics that he voted for Maniscalco, even though he felt that Jackie Toledo was a “very good candidate.”

“I talked to her the last election up here,” he said, recounting a visit with the 38-year-old transportation engineer running for the first time in an election. He also said he liked Castellano.

So why Guido?

“Mostly Tampa ties,” he said. “I ended up talking to him after a couple of people I went to high school with, and they told me about him, and so I just ended up siding with him,” adding that it was a close call.

And in the District 2 contest?

“Charlie Miranda. Same thing. I went to Jesuit with his son … I think that (Julie) Jenkins is a great candidate … but it came down to who can pick up the phone and get an audience with if I need to.”

Bill Zelen said that he supported Toledo in the race. When asked why, he somewhat bizarrely responded that “It would be obscene.” He then said simply, “I don’t want to tell you about it. She’s a nice girl.”

George Hunt said that he supported Castellano in the District 6 race. When asked about District 2, he said that Charlie Miranda was a familiar name, “just like the mayor.”

There were several people who didn’t want to give us their name at all. One such man didn’t want to talk names, but did have an issue that has been a big one for Seminole Heights residents for a long time.

“I’m just looking for candidates who are pro-business, especially here in the Seminole Heights area,” he said. “So anyone who’s more for promoting more businesses, streamlining the process, making it less costly. I’m all for it because I’m looking at the turnaround in Seminole Heights since I’ve lived her and it’s been wonderful. I hear business owners complain it takes forever (to get permits). I would like to see it more user friendly.”

The polls remain open everywhere in Tampa until 7 p.m.

(An earlier version of this story did not distinguish between Susan Long and the other voter who identified herself solely as “Susan” at the Seminole Heights Garden Center. We apologize for any confusion).

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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