Judicial campaigning dominating Election Day in Pinellas

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Most of the signs at polling places around Pinellas County are for judicial candidates.

Most of the campaign literature being thrown at voters as they enter is for judicial candidates.

One of them, Brian Bataglia, is making his way from South County all the way to Tarpon Springs, stopping at precincts along the way encouraging people to vote, hopefully for him.

“It’s different from other races because people don’t know the candidates as well,” Bataglia said from the South St. Pete polling place at Pinellas Community Church.

Bataglia started making his rounds to polling places yesterday, planting yard signs where voters would see them.

“It was a long night, but we got them all out,” Bataglia said.

One voter emerged from the church with a copy of the Tampa Bay Times recommendations. Without that, she told a campaigner, she wouldn’t have even bothered voting for circuit court judges.

That campaigner was Patricia Matthey. Her son, Phil Matthey, is running for District 6 Circuit Judge, Group 21 against Amanda Colon.

The problem, both Bataglia and mother Matthey said, is voters just don’t know the judicial candidates.

“They don’t have party-backing and they don’t have issues to support,” Matthey said.

As voters approached, Matthey handed out fliers with her son’s impressive resume: State Attorney, 120 active felony cases, 75 jury trials. And the list goes on. But it doesn’t look all that different from anyone else’s credentials.

“People just keep asking if he’s a Democrat and a Republican and they just don’t understand that it’s not about that,” Matthey said.

In the 2012 primary, just over 140,000 votes were cast. About 127,000 votes were cast in each of three circuit court races that year. That means that some 13,000 people left those boxes unchecked.

“We just want people to vote,” Matthey said.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.