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In Florida recount, Democrats might be working too hard

Democrats all over the state including in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are rallying volunteers to track down voters who may have cast a provisional ballot to ensure their vote counts.

Democrats are within razor thin margins in several state and local races throughout Florida. State law requires a machine recount if an election is within 0.5 percent. At 0.25 percent, it triggers a manual recount.

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried already is in manual recount territory. The South Florida Democrat needs just north of 4,000 votes to beat out Republican Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers state representative. 

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is trailing Gov. Rick Scott by 0.26 percent, less than 1,000 votes from a manual recount and already within machine recount territory.

The Governor’s race, as of now, puts Andrew Gillum just out of reach of a recount at a margin of 0.52 percent.

But Democrats’ efforts to track down votes might be excessive, according to Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer.

“The provisional ballot process is outlined in state statute down to what has to be in the envelope,” Latimer said.

When voters cast a provisional ballot, it goes into a sealed envelope that has to be signed and voters are given a receipt with identification that can be used to track whether or not it’s been tabulated.

There are a few reasons people cast provisional ballots rather than regular ones, Latimer said. One of the most common is that people aren’t registered to vote. Those instances are usually newly registered voters who registered after the deadline for the election in which they’re voting.

In that case, no matter who tracks them down, their vote is not going to count: “You can’t cure not being registered,” Latimer said.

Another instance in which provisional ballots won’t count are in cases of people voting at the wrong precinct.

Hillsborough County’s procedure for that is to notify the voter they are in the wrong precinct and then direct them to the proper precinct. Election Day voting requires ballots be cast at the appropriate polling place.

Supervisor of Elections
Latimer

“In some instances they will not take our advice to go to the right polling place and insist on doing it in the wrong polling place,” Latimer said.

Those votes will not count.

Provisional ballots that could tip some scales in this year’s contentious midterm election are those cast by voters who forgot their identification.

In those cases voters’ ballots are processed in much the same way as mail ballots. The voter signs a form, the ballot goes into the sealed envelope and then, later, the county’s canvassing board reviews the signature against the one on file.

If the signature matches and the person is an eligible voter, the vote is tabulated. If it doesn’t or they aren’t, it isn’t.

But voting advocates seeking to ensure all votes are counted — a noble effort no matter party affiliation — are encouraging voters to head to supervisors of elections offices statewide with their identifications to validate their votes.

In the case of voters who forgot their IDs, that’s not necessary.

There’s another area candidates could gain some votes post-Election Day. The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and others notify voters whose ballot signatures don’t match that on file.

Those voters are given the option to fill out an affidavit confirming they are who they say they are along with a qualifying identification — things like a state ID, drivers license, military ID or passport.

Voters in that situation had until Monday to do that. If they didn’t do it then, they can’t do it now. Their vote won’t count.

So, this massive statewide effort to help find more votes in hopes it might help Democrats who appeared to lose Tuesday night might simply be a case of duplicative work.

That’s not to say it’s not a valiant effort. “Maybe it brings an awareness to some of the people,” Latimer said.

Maybe that awareness will drive more people to the polls next time. Or maybe it will help people understand how to make sure their votes count before election results come in on Election Day.

There is one thing Latimer hopes voters walk away learning from this process.

“There’s a big myth out there that provisional ballots are bad,” Latimer said. “They’re not bad. It gives that person a chance to vote, and us time to research it to make sure it’s valid and gets counted.”

The Hillsborough canvassing board meets at 5 p.m. Thursday to tabulate or reject any remaining mail ballots that haven’t been counted, vet provisional ballots and prepare the county’s first unofficial election results for the Florida Department of State.

The process will likely change the vote counts and might add some tallies to candidates Democrats are hoping to nudge, but that’s going to happen with or without volunteers spending all days making calls.

Senate, Agriculture races tighten; Governor contest nears recount trigger

The gap between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson dropped down to 21,899 votes as more ballots from left-leaning Broward County finally went through election office scanners.

Meanwhile, Republican Matt Caldwell’s lead over Democrat Nikki Fried dwindled to 4,109 votes in the Florida Agriculture Commissioner race.

The developments in Broward continue as Democrats mount an increasingly aggressive posture and look toward a statewide recount.

Nelson attorney Marc Elias on Wednesday made clear the campaign saw the recount as a path “to win.” He will hold a conference call with reporters later today on the matter.

Fried for her part continues to issue fundraising calls regarding the recount.

“We are going to ensure that every vote is counted,” Freid tweeted last night. “In a race this close, everyones’ voices must be heard so the will of the people is upheld.”

Just to add to the intrigue, the Florida gubernatorial election, which Democrat Andrew Gillum conceded to Republican Ron DeSantis, now sits on the verge of an automatic recount as well. DeSantis’ margin of victory there slipped to 42,948.

Florida law requires a recount for elections with a margin of victory under 0.5 percent of the vote.

In the Agriculture Commissioners race, Caldwell’s margin of victory now sits at 0.06 percent.

In the Senate contest, Scott’s margin fell to 0.26 percent.

In the Governor election, DeSantis’ lead has dropped to 0.52 percent.

If the gap between totals after a machine recount falls with 0.25 percent of the vote, then a manual recount will be required by law.

But the shifts thus far all remain part of the first tabulation of votes.

Even two days after the election, Broward and Palm Beach counties, both counties carried by Democrats in the statewide races, have yet to report a complete count of vote-by-mail ballots to the Division of Elections.

In Broward’s case, the county has not yet completed its count of early voting ballots.

Additionally, most counties have yet to review and tabulate all provisional ballots cast in the election, and there’s also a 10-day window on overseas vote-by-mail ballots to come into elections offices.

‘Look at what happened in Florida’: Donald Trump’s victory lap

Speaking for nearly 90 minutes on a myriad of topics, President Donald Trump offered a rousing defense of the GOP’s midterm performance Wednesday.

“Look at what happened in Florida,” Trump said. “We did unbelievably well, winning the Senate and the governorship against two talented people.”

Trump noted that “we weren’t expected to win” in Florida, framing the victories as a vindication of what he has done as President.

Throughout his remarks, Trump kept circling back to wins in Florida, where he rallied twice in the final week, while dissing a Congressman who didn’t want his help.

Echoing his Wednesday morning tweet in favor of Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, Trump spoke of the importance of DeSantis’ election in the framework of 2020.

“A man who happened to be a very smart person was running,” Trump said, noting that the Ponte Vedra Republican was “not given much of a chance.”

Regarding the Senate race, in recount territory currently, the President spoke of it as a done deal.

Democrat Bill Nelson “is a man who’s been in office 44 years or something. He’s not easy to beat. Rick Scott won and I helped him,” Trump said.

“I think it was a great victory,” Trump said, noting that “celebrities” came in to help Democrats Nelson and Gillum to no avail.

Trump said “The Governors’ races were incredible” with wins against “talented and skilled opponents.”

“Florida, Iowa, Ohio and Georgia … they don’t get much bigger than that,” the President said.

Trump also dismissed Republicans who stayed away from him in the campaign, such as U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who broke with Trump on immigration issues and rhetoric.

Trump pronounced the South Florida Republican’s surname in an exaggerated Spanish accent, as part of a group of moderates who rejected potential Presidential help.

Cannily, President Trump did endorse another Florida Republican Congressional candidate … one who had resisted a rally with him.

Michael Waltz will fill DeSantis’ former seat in Congress after a rousing double-digit victory over the well-financed Democrat Nancy Soderberg.

On Election Day, DeSantis enthusiastically and presciently said that Trump would help close the deal with swing voters.

“From an economic perspective and a results perspective,” DeSantis added, Trump’s message is a “good message for folks.”

“You people have to decide: if you’re more concerned about tweeting than results, I respect that. That’s your vote, you can do what you want. To me, it’s all about results,” DeSantis added.

Florida voters seemed to on Tuesday, yet again, take the President’s word over that of his critics.

Joe Henderson: Democrats win polls but GOP dominates Florida elections … again

The polls said this Florida election was supposed to be the Democrats’ night. Andrew Gillum was going to be the next Governor and that Bill Nelson would be headed back to the U.S. Senate for a fourth term. They would finally have a real seat in the room where it happens in Tallahassee.

But Florida reminded pundits again that polls don’t vote, voters do, and that’s why Ron DeSantis gets to be the Governor and Rick Scott gets to work as the state’s next Senator.

Democrats can keep their noses pressed against the glass.

Gillum may be heard from again, or maybe not. Barring a last-ditch miracle if there is a recount, Nelson’s political career is certainly over at age 76.

Florida Democrats by now should be used to playing the role of Charlie Brown to the Republicans’ Lucy because they know how it ends. The football gets pulled away and they wind up flat on their backs.

It happened again Tuesday in the two highest-profile races on the ballot. In both cases, Democrats told themselves they were running against flawed candidates at a time when a midterm “blue wave” was supposed to be building.

Blue wave?

More like blew by you, Democrats.

In the past, they were second-guessed for running candidates who appealed to centrist voters. This time, they went all-in with an unabashed progressive and that didn’t work either.

Now what? Democrats are going to need a hug this morning.

What will Gov. DeSantis bring to the state?

More of the same, most likely.

More support for the expansion of gun rights. More support for charter schools and vouchers. More bureaucratic interference with public schools. Continued disinterest in environmental protections.

The jobs forecast will look good but forget about a serious push to mandate the $15 per hour minimum wage Gillum promised. Those Floridians hoping for Gillum’s promise of statewide health insurance for everyone will have look elsewhere or go without.

It has been winning formula for Republicans and they’ll see no reason to change it.

Something else that won’t change is Florida’s bitter cultural divide. Scott won two terms as Governor by about 1 percentage point both times, and DeSantis followed the same script.

It’s not exactly a mandate, but in politics, it only matters who gets to put their hand on the Bible and take the oath.

As the late football coach Al Davis once said, “Just win, baby.”

This result should once and forever dash any perception about what matters to people when they go to the voting booth and what doesn’t.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre was supposed to a game-changer, especially after a massive student march on Tallahassee and rallies around the state demanding change.

It wasn’t.

Red tide was an environmental disaster that was supposed to trigger voter retaliation against Scott.

It did not.

Instead, Scott’s relentless pounding on Nelson as out of touch and ineffective appeared to have worked just well enough. And the steady attack on Gillum’s link to an FBI corruption investigation, while he was Mayor of Tallahassee, will be interpreted by many as inflicting fatal damage on him, but I think it was driven by something more basic.

I think people are just focused on their own lives, especially when it comes time to pull the lever. Everything else just bounces off.

For instance, if you’ve got health care, you probably don’t think much about those who don’t. If you’ve got a good job, you’re thinking about your own problems and not so much about those working two or three jobs to get by.

Red tide? Well, yeah, that was bad. Those dead fish washing up on beaches around the state were icky. But people only have so much mental bandwidth to spend on things they don’t believe will affect their everyday lives.

Oh, and there was this: If Florida’s highest-profile political races were supposed to be a referendum on President Trump, the voters sent a message to the rest of the nation Tuesday that looked kind of like an upraised middle finger. They don’t care what anyone says, they like him.

So deal with it.

At this point, opponents are out of options — just like always.

It’s not the party … it’s the after party! A rundown of where Florida candidates will be on election night

On Election Day, as polls close, the after-parties begin.

Candidates — along with nearly everyone else in America — will be glued to their screens Tuesday night for election results. In the end, win or lose, there will be a party.

Some will celebrate a hard-fought victory, while others will be a bit more somber, drowning their sorrows.

Want to party like a politician? Here’s a rundown of where candidates will be as the polls close.

If your favorite candidate isn’t listed, check the Party or venue websites for more information.

U.S. Senate

Gov. Rick Scott is hosting his election night party at 7 p.m., Naples. The address will be provided upon RSVP. Press credentials required; media access begins 3:30 p.m. Hotel rooms are available in the Scott for Florida room block; email for details. RSVP must be submitted by Friday, November 2, to press@scottforflorida.com.

Governor

The Ron DeSantis for Governor campaign election night party begins 6 p.m., Rosen Centre Executive Ballroom, 9840 International Dr., Orlando. The event is open to members of the media with credentials; press preset begins 4 p.m. Please apply for credentials here.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, wife R. Jai Gillum will join running mate and Orlando businessman Chris King and his wife Kristen will hold an election night celebration starting 7 p.m., Florida A&M University Lee Hall, 1601 South Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, Tallahassee. While it is a public event, those planning to attend should RSVP to secure a ticket. Tickets are required for entrance in the area. Parking will be limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Shuttle service will be available from Bragg Memorial Stadium to the election night celebration starting at 6 p.m. and ending at midnight. Attendees should prepare to go through an airport security-style entry — please do not bring large bags/backpacks, laptops, large camera equipment, signage or weapons. Additionally, there will be a “clear bag” policy in effect for the event. Clear bags must adhere to the dimensions of no larger than 12” x 6” x 12;” small non-clear shoulder bags or clutch purses must be no larger than 4.5” x 6.5.” All bags will be checked upon entrance to the event. The public entrance for this event will be on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, south of Lee Hall and adjacent to the FAMU Student Union Building.

Reform Party gubernatorial candidate Darcy Richardson will be hosting a private event to monitor results in Jacksonville with campaign staff and family. The Reform Party of Florida is hosting its watch party at the Holiday Inn on 8310 Galbraith Road in Tampa.

Florida Cabinet

The Ashley Moody for Attorney General campaign party will be at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, Costa Del Sol Ballroom, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa. Doors open at 7 p.m. Media will be allowed access at 4:30 p.m. and must be set up by 6 p.m. Media contact is Christina Johnson. Contact her at Christina@On3PR.com.

Democratic candidate for Attorney General Sean Shaw will hold his general election night event at 6 p.m., LeMéridien Tampa, 601 N Florida Ave, Tampa. RSVP or get more details on Facebook.

State Sen. Jeremy Ring, who is running for Florida Chief Financial Officer, will join The Nikki Fried for Agriculture Commissioner campaign for an election night watch party at Good Spirits, 476 N Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. There will be parking available in the corresponding lot and garage as well as workspace set aside for the press. Doors open for guests at 7 p.m. and 4:20 p.m. for members of the press. RSVP to Max@NikkiFried.com.

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell will cast ballots with his family at 5:30 p.m., House of Worship Church of God, 940 Pondella Road, North Fort Myers.

U.S. House

CD 2 — Democrat Bob Rackleff will hold an election-night party, 7 p.m., Waterworks, 1133 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee.

CD 6 — The Nancy Soderberg campaign and state Rep. Patrick Henry invites voters, supporters, and volunteers for a watch party, 7 p.m., Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, 1864 Victory Circle, Bldg K, Daytona Beach. Press contact: Wellesley Daniels (917) 751-4782 or wellesley@soderbergforcongress.com.

CD 9 — Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto will be at the Ramada Gateway Hotel Ballroom, 7470 Irlo Bronson Memorial HWY 192 in Kissimmee. Republican nominee Wayne Liebnitzky hasn’t announced an election night activity, possibly because Florida’s 9th is a Dem lock.

CD 12 — Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis is hosting a results-watching party 7 p.m. at the St. Nicholas Community Center, 348 N. Pinellas Avenue, Tarpon Springs. For more details contact either Summer Robertson (727) 237-6811 or Towson Fraser (850) 443-1444.

CD 13

CD 15 — Democrat Kristen Carlson will hold her election night watch party at 7 p.m., The Lakeland Room, Historic Lake Mirror Tower Building, 130 S. Massachusetts Ave., Lakeland. RSVP to Robert Walters at robert@kristencarlsonforcongress.com for press credentials.

CD 18 — Democratic challenger Lauren Baer hosts a watch party with friends and supporters from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., Palm Beach Gardens Embassy Suites, 4350 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens. Those looking to attend can RSVP by using this link.

CD 19 — Democrat David Holden hosts a watch party with friends and supporters starting 6:30 p.m., Holiday Inn Fort Myers Airport at Town Center, 9931 Interstate Commerce Drive, Fort Myers. Venue information at hiftmyersairport.com. Open to media but limited to the public (due to space). Advanced notice appreciated. Contact David Silverberg at (239) 451-1253.

CD 25 — The Mary Barzee Flores for Congress election night party begins 7 p.m., The Bend, 6844 NW 169th St, Hialeah. The event is open to the public and press. Press are welcome to arrive after 6:30 p.m.; doors will open to the public at 7 p.m. Day-of, on-site contact for logistics will be Jade Tacka, (817) 880-5423 or jade@cmarfybarzeeflores.com. For all other media inquiries, contact Sam Miller at (703) 408-1447 or sam@marybarzeeflores.com.

CD 26 — The Carlos Curbelo campaign is inviting voters to an 8 p.m. watch party at his campaign headquarters, 12877 SW 42nd St, Miami. Contact joanna@carloscurbelo.com.

CD 26 — Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell will hold her party starting 7:30 p.m., Black Point Ocean Grill, 24775 SW 87th Ave., Cutler Bay.

CD 27 — Democrat Donna Shalala will hold her election night watch party beginning 7 p.m. at the Coral Gables Woman’s Club, 1001 E Ponce De Leon Blvd, Coral Gables.

State Senate

SD 18 — State Rep. Janet Cruz will hold her watch party 7 p.m., Grillsmith Restaurant, 14303 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa.

SD 24 — Lindsay Cross will be at The Getaway, 13090 Gandy Blvd N in St. Pete, 6 p.m. More information is on her campaign Facebook page.

State House

HD 1 — Vikki Garrett will join the Escambia Democratic Party for a watch party beginning 6 p.m., O’Charley’s 6233 N. Davis Hwy., Pensacola.

HD 11 — Nathcelly Rohrbaugh and AFL-CIO will be watching returns beginning 7 p.m., Chem Cell Club Inc., 2951 Riverside Dr., Fernandina Beach.

HD 11 — Nathcelly Rohrbaugh will be at 2951 Riverside Dr., Fernandina Beach.

HD 15 — Tracye Polson will be at Two Dudes Seafood Restaurant Riverside, 2665 Park St., Jacksonville (Corner of Park and King).

HD 28 — Lee Mangold will be with the Seminole County Democrats at an event starting 6 p.m., Miller’s Ale House, 477 East Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs.

HD 36 — State Rep. Amber Mariano’s watch party will be 7 p.m., Kickin Wingz, 8702 SR-52, Hudson.

HD 36 — Democrat David Perez will hold his party starting 7:30 p.m., La Carreta Restaurant, 5350 W 16th Ave., Hialeah. RSVP on Facebook.

HD 42 — Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa will be at Gator’s Dockside in Saint Cloud. Democratic nominee Barbara Cady will be at Soto’s party at the Ramada Gateway in Kissimmee.

HD 47, 48, 49, 50 — Anna Eskamani, state Rep. Amy Mercado, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Pam Dirschka will watch returns starting 7 p.m., Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Downtown, 191 East Pine Street, Orlando.

HD 48 — GOP challenger George Chandler will join the Orange County Republican Executive Committee will be at the Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa, 9055 Turkey Lake Rd., in Orlando. Many of the Florida House candidates from Orange County will be there.

HD 57 — Mike Beltran and the Hillsborough County Republican Party are inviting friends and supporters to watch election returns at 6 p.m., Due Amici Restaurant, Amici a famiglia, 1724 E. 7th Ave., Ybor City.

HD 57, 58, 59 — Democrats Debbie Katt, Phil Hornback and Adam Hattersley will be watching returns starting 6:30 p.m., 11135 Winthrop Market St, Riverview.

HD 59 — Republican Joe Wicker, who is running for an open seat in Hillsborough County’s House District 59, will hold an election-night party, 6 p.m., El Rico Frappé Latino, 122 Pierce Christie Dr., Valrico.

HD 63, 61 — Democrats Fentrice Driskell and state Rep.-elect Dianne Hart will be celebrating starting 6:30 p.m. at the Vizcaya Restaurante & Tapas Bar, 10905 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa.

HD 66

HD 66 — Alex Heeren will be at the West Bay Tap House, 80 Clearwater Largo Rd S, 6 p.m. More information is on his campaign Facebook page.

HD 69 — Jennifer Webb will begin her party at 7 p.m., Peninsula Inn Gulfport, 2937 Beach Blvd. S. in Gulfport.

HD 69 — Ray Blacklidge — Gator’s Cafe, 12754 Kingfish Dr., Treasure Island, beginning 5:30 p.m. More information is on his campaign Facebook page.

HD 71 — Republican Will Robinson is hosting a campaign victory party, 6:30 p.m. The campaign will provide location upon RSVP with Allie at allie@robinsonforflorida.com. If you wish to stop by, include the names of all of those attending to ensure your name is on the guest list. Food and beverages will be provided.

HD 72 — State Rep. Margaret Good will be watching returns starting 7 p.m., Michael’s on East, 1212 S East Ave., Sarasota.

HD 73 — Democrat Liv Coleman in the Manatee Democratic Party will hold an event beginning 7 p.m., Manatee County Democratic Party, 435 Cortez Rd W, Bradenton.

HD 74 — Democrat Tony Mowry will join Englewood Indivisible for a watch party beginning 7:30 p.m., Stefano’s Family Restaurant, 401 S Indiana Ave., Englewood.

HD 78

HD 83 — Emma Collum holds her watch party at 7 p.m., 26 Degrees Brewing Company, 2600 E Atlantic Boulevard, Pompano Beach.

HD 84 — Democrat Delores Johnson will be watching returns starting 7 p.m. at the St. Lucie County Democratic DEC Office, 910 N. 25th Street, Fort Pierce.

HD 89 — Democrat Jim Bonfiglio is the host of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party election night watch party at 7 p.m., Embassy Suites, 1601 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach.

HD 93 — Democrat Emma Collum will hold an election watch party starting 7 p.m., 26 Degree Brewing Company, 2600 E Atlantic Blvd, Pompano Beach.

HD 103 — Democrat Cindy Polo will join the NW Dade Democratic Club for a watch party starting 7 p.m., 5inco Indoor & Colombian Flavor, 8081 W 28th Ave., Hialeah.

HD 105 — Democrat Javier Estevez will hold an election night watch party at 7 p.m., 8502 SW 146th Court, Miami. RSVP on Facebook.

HD 113 — Democrat Michael Grieco will hold his election night watch event beginning 7 p.m., Hôtel Gaythering, 1409 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. RSVP on Facebook.

HD 114 — Democrat Javier Fernandez is holding his event beginning 7 p.m., Pub 52, 5829 SW. 73rd St., South Miami. RSVP On Facebook.

HD 115 — Democrat Jeff Solomon will join state Sen. Annette Taddeo and Leader-Designate Kionne McGhee at an event hosted by the by Miami-Dade Democrats beginning 7 p.m., The Brick, American Kitchen & Bar, 8955 SW 72nd PL, South Miami.

HD 118 — State Rep. Robert Asencio will be holding his party starting 7 p.m., Isla del Encanto 2, 11236 SW 137th Ave., Miami.

HD 120 — Democrat Captain Steve Friedman will hold his election watch party starting 7 p.m., Angler House Marina, 80500 Overseas Hwy, Islamadora.

Down-ballot races

Pinellas County Commission District 6 — Amy Kedron is not making her event public, saying it was due to “security concerns” raised against Tampa Bay Times reporter Mark Puente.

Palm Beach County Commission — Robert Weinroth will be celebrating at 7:30 p.m., Delray Beach Marriott, 10 N Ocean Boulevard, Delray Beach.

Duval County Tax Collector — Mia Jones will be watching election returns at about 7 p.m., 645 Oak St, Jacksonville.

Candidates aren’t the only ones hosting election night parties.

The Orange County REC Victory party is at 7 p.m., Westgate Lakes Resort & Spa, 9055 Turkey Lake Rd., 7th Floor.

The United Teachers of Dade watch party begins 7:30 p.m., UTD Headquarters, 2200 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. RSVP Required.

New Florida Majority, a progressive coalition working to engage “marginalized and excluded constituencies,” will be hosting several watch parties throughout the state.

— New Florida Majority, Dream Defenders, FLIC Votes, and FANM in Action will hold a joint Amendment 4 watch party beginning 6 p.m., Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami.

— Also beginning 7 p.m., La Perla Escondida Restaurant, 717 N. Dixie Hwy., Palm Beach.

— Also beginning at 7 p.m., Austin’s Soul Food Restaurant, 4807 N. Main St., Jacksonville.

The Duval Democratic Party will be watching returns beginning 7 p.m., Cuba Libra Ultra Lounge, 2578 Atlantic Blvd., Jacksonville.

Duval County Republicans will be watching results at 7 p.m., Whisky Jax, 10915 Baymeadows Road, #135, Jacksonville.

The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, the group behind Amendment 4, the proposal to restore voting rights to former felons who paid their debt to society, will be holding an election watch party at 6 p.m., DoubleTree at SeaWorld, 10100 International Drive, Orlando. RSVP with kimberly@safeandjust.

Act Now for Children’s Services is hosting its Children’s Trust election night watch party starts 5:30 p.m., 1310 Southwest 13th Street, Gainesville. Online registration is here.

Seeking Democratic nod in 2020? Chances are, you’ve met Andrew Gillum

Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey came to the Sunshine State in April to help his colleague, Florida’s Bill Nelson, raise money to fight a newly announced but long-expected challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

At that time, Florida’s U.S. Senate race was shaping up to be the marquee midterm matchup, and the state’s crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary suggested any outside political support would be premature.

Democrats Philip Levine and Gwen Graham were trading places at the top of the few polls conducted by April. And Andrew Gillum, the Mayor of Tallahassee who had waged a relatively quiet bid so far, was probably the last person on Booker’s mind.

But things were different after the primary.

Gillum, the once-longshot candidate, went from relative obscurity to national fame in a matter of weeks after his upset victory in late August. 

Booker, an expected Democratic presidential candidate, had been canvassing the country to boost his party’s midterm chances. 

But by September his top concern wasn’t any member running for Congress.

“I’m going to tell you right now, [Gillum] is at the top of my list,” Booker declared alongside Gillum in a video posted to Gillum’s Twitter account in September.  

And late last month, Booker — who had undoubtedly increased his national profile during the contested confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — came to Jacksonville to campaign alongside Nelson at a parade hosted by Edward Waters College, a historically black institution that had welcomed the African-American Senator for its homecoming festivities.

Also in attendance: Gillum. The guy that every Democrat needs to meet. The guy who has so much buzz, even national Republicans anticipate a presidential run out of the 39-year-old Mayor.  

Booker’s rapidly developed and publicized relationship with Gillum is one of many to unfold in the months leading up to Tuesday.

Democrats weighing presidential bids in 2020 have flocked to Gillum’s side on the trail and in some cases have contributed to a boost in his fundraising.

Last month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also a 2020 potential, accompanied Gillum through a series of political events in South Florida.

Before he left, he would chip in $250,000 to Gillum’s candidacy. The Every Town for Gun Safety PAC, largely financed by Bloomberg, had already put another $250,000 behind the Mayor’s bid.

California progressive billionaire Tom Steyer, who hasn’t ruled out a presidential bid, invested more than $8 million in the Sunshine State this cycle. 

Before Tuesday, Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden would hold three Florida rallies for Nelson, Gillum, and Democrats down the ballot. Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren had exerted influence in the Sunshine State for Gillum as early as September. Hillary Clinton would campaign for the Mayor in South Florida. 

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would similarly make the case for Gillum in Florida before Election Day. Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe made a few Sunshine State appearances on Gillum’s behalf in October. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who ran for President in 2016, rallied in Tampa for Gillum on Monday. 

The list goes on.

If Gillum hadn’t won the primary, the number of national cameos could’ve been the same. But Florida’s bruised welcome mat is a likely combination of both the national significance of the swing state, along with Gillum’s popularity.

“Politicians can detect star power a mile off,” said Rick Wilson, Republican strategist and author of “Everything Trump Touches Dies.”

“Gillum has it.”

As far as the candidates who have made the trek south to Florida, Wilson said “they made a bet on the Governor of the third-largest state in the country who will be building a massive political and financial operation. 

“In short they have every reason to be here.”

And in a few hours, we’ll know if that investment paid off.

Red Tide Politics: It’s the environment, stupid.

Candidates in Southwest Florida anticipated lengthy debates about Medicaid expansions, gun rights and maybe charter school funding to dominate political discourse this election.

So it seemed illustrative to state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo when a Naples candidate informed contained not one question about health care came up.

“This year,” she said, “it’s all about the water and our quality of life.”

Welcome to red tide politics.

First blue-green algae coursed along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers following unpopular discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Then red tide struck beaches on Florida’s east and west coasts.

Republican leaders, most especially Gov. Rick Scott, suddenly faced questions over deregulation and the appointment of business leaders instead of scientists on water management district boards in South Florida. The smell of dead fish and the issuance of no-swim advisories turned harmful algal blooms from an academic term to a hot-button issue.

Candidates knocking on doors along both coasts reported the top question, whether politicians ran for the Florida Legislature, county commission or local mosquito board, pertained to red tide.

It seemed quite the shift in conversation after a decade of Tea Party politics in which environmental regulation became anathema to conservative ideology.

Scott’s reported ban on the terms “climate change” and “global warming” seemed suddenly counter-productive. Sen. Marco Rubio, a one-time Tea Party hero, lobbied President Donald Trump’s administration to adjust discharge schedules.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham returned donations from the sugar industry, making Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam the only major candidate running for Florida’s highest office this year to keep money from the environmental boogeyman.

Neither Graham nor Putnam made it out of primary season.

In the general election season, Republicans in once safe seats suddenly faced well-funded opponents. Even when a hurricane seemed to draw red tide back out to sea, Democrats like District 73 House candidate Liv Coleman continued to batter the message home running footage of dead fish just in case voters forgot the sight.

At a Tiger Bay debate in Sarasota, Democrats Tracy Pratt and Tony Mowry hammered Republican opponents Will Robinson and James Buchanan for environmental deregulation under the GOP, even though neither of the conservatives had served in the Legislature and both promised to get tough on polluters.

Republican state Rep. Joe Gruters, a state Senate hopeful this year, held a joint town hall with Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good as both candidates showed their commitment to bipartisan solutions to fixing the environment.

And even in major Republican strongholds like Lee County, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum packed a venue with the promise of taking questions on environmental preservation.

John Capese, Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida’s Southwest Chapter, could be found on the sidelines of that event, excited at the sense of urgency green issues gained during the election cycle.

He wondered if the environment could give life even to longshot Democrats like David Holden, the Democratic challenging U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

It’s unclear whether Rooney lost much sleep at that prospect, and no major political prognosticators paid any heed to the race. But a couple days after the Gillum town hall, Rooney took the stage at a Trump rally, and the message he sent to voters was about recent funding approval for a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

Scott raised the same matter at Trump rallies in Pensacola and Fort Myers. But Sen. Bill Nelson barraged airwaves with ads that put the onus on “Red Tide Rick.”

Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, though, avoided such attacks by making enemies with Big Sugar years ago. One of his strongest days of the general election season, and one that sent Democrats into convulsions, came as he secured the endorsement of the Everglades Trust.

Seeing an environmental group back the GOP candidate certainly seemed off, but only through the prism of politics in the year 2018.

In the not-so-distant past, GOP leaders like Gov. Jeb Bush championed Florida Forever funding. Gov. Claude Kirk campaigned during and after his political career on the promise of saving and restoring Florida’s waterways.

It used to be a given that Florida politicians, regardless of party, would always champion the environment. That seemed to chip away a decade ago when even Bush entertained opening Florida’s shores to oil drilling, once a third rail of Florida politics.

That didn’t last long. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster turned once-softening public opinion on petroleum exploration into severe backlash on the idea.

Red tide may once again turn a green platform into a regional requirement for political success in Florida, regardless of hostility between national conservatives and the environmental community.

And in some ways how could that not happen eventually? The Everglades remain a crucial part of Florida’s identity, and beach tourism a critical piece of the state economy.

For all the efforts toward diversification in the economy, manufacturing always faces challenges in the Sunshine State thanks to its limited ground access to most of the continental U.S. In a state surrounded by water on three sides, how long could water quality stay out of headlines and political debates?

Algae just helps twist a famous James Carville truism. He helped President Bill Clinton win the White House asking citizens to make a gut check on whether the economy seemed better than when President George W. Bush took office.

It may take more than pictures of dead fish to lead to many Democratic upsets this evening in safe Republican seats. For many GOP candidates who once expected few questions on the environment had to develop a platform darn quick this year.

In Florida, it’s always the environment stupid.

T-shirt theater: Governor’s campaign drama spills into Jacksonville City Hall

The votes have yet to be counted between gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis.

But the ethics complaints apparently are flowing in Jacksonville City Hall.

Councilman Garrett Dennis, a Democrat, wore a Gillum for Governor T-shirt to a Council committee meeting Tuesday.

A blazer covered the jacket. Nonetheless, he was told that would draw an ethics complaint, he said.

“My jacket was on all day,” Dennis said.

Dennis said earlier in the day he had run into Jacksonville’s two most powerful staffers: Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and Chief of Staff Brian Hughes.

According to Dennis, they told him to “take off your jacket … we want to see what’s under your jacket.”

A copy of the complaint is not yet in hand. And we’ve been frustrated in getting any confirmation such a complaint exists.

“Complaints made to the Ethics Commission are confidential, per Florida law,” said Carla Miller, the City of Jacksonville’s Director of Ethics Compliance and Oversight.

“And, just for general information, campaign regulations for the City are under Chapter 350 of the Jacksonville Code. The Ethics Commission does not have jurisdiction over those matters.”

Hughes, meantime, says this is another “false claim” from Dennis.

This latest episode continues an ongoing tango of claims and counterclaims. Dennis has maintained that Lenny Curry’s administration has bullied and intimidated him for over a year.

At the same time, one former Curry staffer has claimed that Dennis intimidated her during a closed meeting.

Dennis, a strong Gillum supporter down the stretch, may run for Mayor. And he noted that the incumbent took a political stand in this campaign at a city event.

Mayor Lenny Curry endorsed DeSantis at a city event in August. “I will do whatever it takes,” Curry said, regarding helping to get DeSantis elected.

Dennis said, “Several months ago, Lenny Curry ushered DeSantis around and took him to a city paid-for facility, endorsed him, and had city employees there doing the whole production on the taxpayer’s dime.

“The ethics office needs to be looking at that,” he added.

State says Election Day starts smoothly

Polling places throughout Florida opened on time for Tuesday’s high-stakes general election, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said.

A news release from Detzner’s office didn’t report any issues at polling locations.

“Division of Elections staff is communicating with each county supervisor of elections throughout the day, and we stand ready to provide any needed assistance,” Detzner said in a statement.

Numbers posted Tuesday morning by the division indicated 5.21 million ballots had been cast through early voting and vote-by-mail, representing 39.2 percent of the state’s 13.28 million voters.

Democrats had accounted for 2,112,416 ballots cast and Republicans 2,089,664. Republicans had cast more vote-by-mail ballots while Democrats topped early voting.

Polls will close at 7 p.m., with races for Governor and U.S. Senator drawing national attention.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum voted Tuesday morning in rainy Tallahassee, while Republican nominee Ron DeSantis voted in St. Johns County.

“We are excited about today,” Gillum said. “We’re hopeful that it won’t be raining in the rest of the state and that we’ll do what we have to do to bring out a good victory.”

PredictIt: Odds favor Andrew Gillum, Bill Nelson

Plenty of internet experts have all sorts of predictions as to what will happen Tuesday night. But those putting their money where their mouth is see good news for Democratic candidates Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson in their respective races for Governor and U.S. Senate.

As of the drafting of this piece (though with numbers subject to change), the Democratic Party was selling at 67 cents in the race for Governor on PredictIt, a political prediction market. The Republicans, who are running former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, were selling at just 38 cents.

That’s a drastic change from the odds coming off the Aug. 28 primary. After Gillum upset former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, PredictIt markets switched to favoring Republicans.

But over time, as polling has mostly shown leads for Gillum, the markets have moved back to the Democrats’ favor.

Nelson similarly saw his odds fluctuate throughout the general election campaign.

But he’s now the favorite to defeat his Republican opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, according to PredictIt. Nelson is trading at 62 cents.

The site also favors the Democrat in one of the most closely contested congressional races in not just South Florida, but the whole country.

Donna Shalala is competing against Republican nominee Maria Elvira Salazar in the race for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. PredictIt has Democrats trading at 73 cents, while Republicans sit at just 29 cents.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida’s 26th Congressional District has been vacillating between underdog and favorite just in the last 24 hours. He is currently trading at 53 cents as he fights for re-election against Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

The races for Florida’s 15th Congressional District and Florida’s 17th Congressional District do favor the GOP, according to the site’s odds.

But overall, the Democrats are favored to take over the U.S. House. In the market to predict how many seats the GOP will hold after Tuesday’s vote, “217 or fewer” is the priciest at 73 cents. That would put Republicans in the minority.

The site includes some prop-like bets as well, such as asking which statewide candidate will receive the most overall votes. Andrew Gillum is favored, trading at 54 cents. He’s followed by Bill Nelson at 31 cents, Rick Scott at 19 cents, and Ron DeSantis at 9 cents.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a midterm Election Day without immediate rampant speculation about the 2020 presidential race. PredictIt has Democrats favored, trading at 54 cents. Republicans are trading at 47 cents.

As for the Democrats’ nominee? U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California leads, trading at 21 cents. She is followed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 16 cents and former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, both of whom are at 14 cents.

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