Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson wants to make sure voters in his city can get to the polls next week to cast a ballot. Henderson posted his phone number on Facebook inviting them to give him a call if they need a ride.
However, Henderson also encouraged voters to check out the Gulfport Extended Minibus Service, or GEMS. The service is available to Gulfport seniors and persons with disabilities.
“If you don’t qualify for a GEMS ride, but need someone to give you a lift, give me a call on or before Election Day, and I or one of my team will pick you up, get you out to vote and take you back home. 727-537-0725,” Henderson wrote.
Henderson isn’t necessarily just putting his good-guy hat on, though; he’s on the ballot. Get out the vote efforts are common among candidates for office. But it’s not every day one offers to drive voters to the polls themselves.
Of course, under Florida Election laws, Henderson can’t discriminate on who he takes to the polls if he’s offering that service. So people voting for his opponent, Barbara Banno, could theoretically give Henderson and his team a shout for a ride.
Henderson and Banno have been embroiled in what has become one of Gulfport’s bloodiest races in recent memory. The contest has created a rift between the candidates’ supporters with the central issue circling around the August sewage dump into Clam Bayou.
Banno wants to be tougher on St. Pete and put more efforts into research and cleanup. Henderson has met with St. Pete officials on multiple occasions and says he’s been plenty proactive but isn’t blowing that horn nearly as loud as his opposition.
No one at St. Pete City Hall has endorsed a candidate in that race, but it’s a fair bet that another Henderson term would be friendlier for the city than a Banno administration.
The two are down to less than one week before the election. Voters take to the polls Tuesday. While only Democrats and Republicans can vote in the Presidential Preference Primary dominating the news, all voters may cast a ballot in Gulfport’s municipal elections. That includes two candidates for City Council Ward 1 – incumbent Dan Liedtke and his challenger, April Thanos.