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Here’s where sh*t stands in Tampa Bay politics — the ‘counting down the hours ‘ edition

There are less than 48 hours before Election Day and in both local politics and the weather forecast, it’s the calm before the storm.

One of the most difficult aspects of being in this game is the waiting. All of the television ads and direct mail and brochures and yard signs have been produced and sent and distributed. There’s no such thing, really, anymore as Get Out The Vote (GOTV). The vote’s been getting out for the last month. Oh sure, there will be folks waving signs and, especially in districts where there are a high concentration of African-American voters, there will be some GOTV’ing. But the days of the 72-hour Plan, if they ever existed, are extinct.

I remember the 2002 election cycle. The political consulting firm at which I was creative director (The Mallard Group) represented Republican Faye Culp, who was running neck-and-neck with the telegenic Scott Farrell. On the Thursday before the election, The Terrance Group showed us a poll that had Culp coming on strong, moving to within one point of her Democratic opponent. There was barely any early voting then, so the election would be decided on, well, Election Day. But Culp’s campaign was exhausted of money and resources. She had spent everything to get where she was — a point behind. Unless something changed, Farrell could just run out the clock and he’d be on his way to Tallahassee.

That’s when the Republican Party of Florida came to Culp’s rescue. To beat a midnight deadline (there was no PayPal in those days), the RPOF put a staffer on a chartered plane and flew a $20,000 check to Tampa for The Mallard Group to design, print, and send a final piece of attack mail. Our staff and vendor partners turned the mailer around in 24 hours, which, with the technology of the day, was a Herculean task.

Culp would end up winning narrowly. That final mailer probably did the trick.

Sadly, those kind of last-minute heroics are as out-of-date as the Macintosh computers we used to design that mailer.

So here we are, waiting.

We hunt for scraps of intel. We turn down the music to listen for whispers of fresh polling data. Only most Florida-based pollsters stopped making calls the week before last.

There have been some robo-polls, almost all of which suggest close races, like the ones in state Senate District 19 and 23, only got closer.

So as we wait, here is where sh*t stands.

That race for SD 19 is, in fact, razor-close. Ed Narain and Darryl Rouson are essentially tied, while trial lawyer Augie Ribeiro has spent more than $600,000 to position himself in striking distance. If there is any race in Tampa Bay that may be impacted by the weather, it is this race. Rouson needs a strong last-minute push from his Pinellas base, but if its dark and stormy on Tuesday, those voters may stay home. As for Ribeiro, he may not win, but he deserves credit for changing the dynamics of the election. The Hispanic vote (who knew there was one?) in SD 19 has doubled. In fact, Ribeiro’s camp is still optimistic about their candidate’s chances based on the demographics of the early vote which has already come in.

My prediction in SD 19? Rouson by a nose as Betty Reed over-performs in the Hillsborough portion of the district and cuts into Narain’s base.

The GOP establishment is firmly behind Rebecca Smith in the House District 60 primary, but there’s something about Jackie Toledo‘s resilience that keeps me from betting the house on Smith. In this Trumpian era, Toledo’s strong anti-immigration stance is probably attractive to the average Republican voter. There’s also the fact that Smith really hasn’t made much of an impression on the campaign trail. A Republican political consultant points out that almost all of Smith’s direct mail is biography driven. There’s no red meat in any of it.

Smith probably still wins Tuesday, but it would not be surprising to see Toledo pull off the upset.

Ben Diamond or Eric Lynn? Eric Lynn or Ben Diamond. Other than in-person, there’s not much light between the two Pinellas Democrats vying for the HD 68 seat. This is another House primary where the local establishment is (mostly) in one corner — Diamond’s. But Lynn has raised and spent a heckuva lot more than Diamond. He’s been ubiquitous on cable TV and in the mailbox.

There has been wildly conflicting polling in this race, so it’s difficult to make a prediction here. Diamond’s probably the favorite because he has the endorsement of the Tampa Bay Times and almost every other Democratic elected official. But I like Lynn in an “upset.”

Have you read Anne Lindberg’s reporting about Judge Myriam Irizarry

Challenger Dwight Dudley says she lacks courtroom trial experience in Florida. Irizarry says Dudley has misrepresented her experience. Now Dudley says he’s sticking by his claim that she lacks trial experience and says Irizarry is at fault for any confusion because of apparently conflicting records.

Lindberg dogged Izizarry into somewhat of a confession.

She says the information on her campaign website under “resume“ is not a resume. “The website is highlights of my accomplishments. … Some of the dates are off.”

She added, “I stand by my resume that I submitted to the JNC.”

Because the campaign “resume” is only highlights, she said, information was left off in addition to the misdating issue.

“I can see how someone might ask the question,” Irizarry said.

The bottom line here seems to be that, when confronted with her own materials, Irizarry determined it was easier to not tell the whole truth to voters than to admit lying to the Judicial Nominating Commission.

There has not been a single mention of it in the media, but one of the most important races to Pinellas Republican insiders is the one between Dan Tucker and Jay Beyrouti for state committeeman.

Tucker, a rabid tea partier, has been something of a lightning rod in this elected party post. Many GOP leaders wish he would just go away. Short of that, they’re hoping Beyrouti, a well-liked former county chairman and a gubernatorial appointment, can knock him off. In fact, Pinellas GOP Vice-chair Todd Jennings posted to Twitter this weekend a photo of him campaigning for Beyrouti.

A prolific fundraiser for other people’s campaigns, Beyrouti has amassed a sizable war chest for his efforts.

It’s doubtful either man has been able raise enough money to communicate with enough voters that it would make much of a difference, so this race is nothing less than a coin-flip.

Even more under the radar than the race for state committeeman is the race to serve as a representative to the county party from precinct 140. That’s right, a precinct chair race has become a flashpoint. That’s because one of those running for the position is the outspoken Dr. David McKalipAccording to his website, the Sun Beam Times, McKalip has been on the receiving end of a negative mailer that highlights some of the more controversial aspects of his public record.

McKalip and I agree on very few things and he is often a thorn in the side of many of my political allies, but I’ve come come to respect McKalip’s dogged adherence to his principles, as well as his ability to inject himself into the occasional controversy.

Were I in Precinct 140, I’d vote for McKalip.

If nothing else, he keeps things interesting.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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