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Tampa Bay

What blue wave? Pinellas GOP exudes confidence majority will hold firm

Hours before midterm election results start rolling in, Pinellas County Republicans are just as optimistic as Democrats.

“I think you’re going to see us win Election Day turnout, as always,” said Todd Jennings, Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee vive-chair.

Party volunteers have been calling voters in a last-minute get-out-the-vote effort. They also have groups continuing to canvass neighborhoods as well as volunteers at the polls to monitor voting activity, on the watch for potential problems.

One problem was reported by Democrats earlier in the day at Jet Jackson Recreation Center in South St. Pete, but that issue was quickly rectified. Voters were delayed when some people who showed up had been listed as already voted.

The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office explained it as a poll worker error.

Jennings said the Party feels good with its legislative lineup of candidates and doesn’t expect the so-called “blue wave” to reach Tallahassee.

Some Pinellas County incumbents are easily favored to win re-election, which includes state Sen. Jeff Brandes and Reps. Chris Sprowls and Chris Latvala. Newcomer Nick DiCeglie is also a favorite in his mid-Pinellas and Clearwater House District 66.

Ed Hooper, the Republican running against Amanda Murphy for the Senate District 16 seat (previously held by Jack Latvala) is facing a tough race. Both Hooper and Murphy have previous legislative experience, each with good name recognition. Even though SD 16, which includes north Pinellas, all of Pasco and parts of Hillsborough counties, leans conservative, Hooper’s race is considered one of several that Democrats could pick up.

Another is the House District 69 seat incumbent Kathleen Peters is vacating to run for Pinellas County Commission. That district covers parts of western St. Pete, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach and Seminole. Democrat Jennifer Webb is polling ahead of Republican Ray Blacklidge.

The Republican Party has recently dumped a ton of money into an onslaught of direct mail targeting Webb as a “radical” progressive candidate and questioning whether she can be trusted to work for voters, not special interests.

Some of the information in those flyers was misleading or exaggerated.

For months leading up to the elections, Jennings has been walking neighborhoods talking to voters. He said a lot of those he’s spoken with expressed frustration with the current harsh political climate.

“I spoke with one cul-de-sac of independents who said they were all voting straight R down the ticket,” Jennings said. “I don’t know if that’s necessarily a countywide trend or it was just that neighborhood in Seminole.”

Registered Republicans in the county got fired up for this election during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation, Jennings noted, as well as what they see as an unfair bias in the mainstream media.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She 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 die-hard 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 contentious issues surrounding transit. 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 a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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