Democrats have a lead in voter turnout in the 2-nd Congressional District which features one of the tighter Congressional races in the country. Mid-day Monday, with the morning mail yet to be processed and 13 of the 14 counties reporting, Democrats had cast 34,879 ballots and Republicans 26,321.
Jefferson County reported 842 ballots cast but had yet to break the number down by party affiliation.
Incumbent Congressman Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, is being challenged by Democrat Gwen Graham of Leon County in a closely-watched race which national pundits rate a tossup.
Southerland is a two-term Congressman, first elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 and won reelection with 53 percent of the vote in 2012. Graham paints him as the personification of Washington gridlock. The Congressman counters that Graham is a protégé of Nancy Pelosi.
Southerland’s base is in Bay County while Graham can count on the Capitol counties of Leon and Gadsden.
The 8,000 Democratic lead in voter turnout is somewhat suspect because many in the rural counties register Democrat but traditionally support Republican candidates in state and national elections. Elmer Coker, chair of the Taylor County Republican Executive Committee, explained that no one in his family has voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate since Harry Truman left the White House but the Cokers waited until Jeb Bush was governor to officially switch parties.
Voting statistics indicate many of his neighbors vote like Coker but haven’t registration. Democrats have the lead in registration in eight of the farming and forested counties surrounding Leon and Bay counties but Gov. Rick Scott, Mitt Romney and Steve Southerland have easily carried them.
The vote totals in the rural counties are small; fewer than 10,000 votes were counted in eight of the counties during the 2012 election. Remove them from the equation to look at the Capitol region of Leon, Gadsden and Wakulla and Southerland’s base of Bay County along with Jackson which has 28,000 voters and gave Southerland 62 percent of the vote last time and the Democrats lead is 5,870.
And again, in that total, Jackson County’s 2,736 Democratic votes could be suspect since Democrats lead registration in the county nearly 2 -1 but Republican candidates score supermajority vote totals.
Monday’s total for the five counties composing the districts two major population centers had Democrats with 28,228 ballots cast and Republicans with 22,358.