Voter turnout in Pinellas surpasses 2010 election

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Voter turnout just an hour before the polls closed in Pinellas County was already higher than it was in the last midterm election. Just over 311,000 Pinellas voters cast a ballot in 2010 when Alex Sink was running against Rick Scott. As of 5:40 p.m. today, about 333,000 ballots have been cast.

Election Day turnout so far is a little more than half of the absentee votes. Of that today, 12,000 more Republicans have cast a ballot than Democrats. Just under 75,000 people not affiliated with the two major parties have also cast a ballot.

Statewide, politicos are holding their breath waiting to see whether Gov. Rick Scott will keep the Governor’s Mansion against former Gov. Charlie Crist and whether sick Floridians will soon be using pot for medicine. That measure needs 60 percent approval to pass.

In Pinellas, the Greenlight transit referendum is perplexing supporters and opponents. The battle over whether to increase the county’s sales tax from 7 percent to 8 percent to fund sweeping improvements to public transportation is expected to be close.

Also on the ballot locally are county commission candidates Ed Hooper and Pat Gerard. That race also is expected to be close. Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers is expected to handily defeat two challengers, Democrat Mark Weinkrantz and independent Marcus Harrison for the county commission seat being vacated by Susan Latvala.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes faces popular USF St. Pete professor Judithanne McLauchlan. Brandes has brought in more than $800,000 for his re-election bid largely from outside groups while McLauchlan has raised less than half that.

Three Democrats in the House, Carl Zimmerman, Dwight Dudley and Mark Danish all face formidable GOP challengers. Republicans need five seats to gain a veto-proof supermajority.

The polls closed at 7 p.m. Results from early voting are expected to drop shortly there after. Some uncompetitive races could be called before precincts have begun reporting.

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.