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Sam Henderson offers rides to the polls, gives out his phone number on Facebook

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

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.

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 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

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