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Early primary election voting set to begin; absentee ballots now available

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Signaled by biting television advertisements and fliers filling mailboxes, the 2010 election season now is underway for South County voters.

In the next few weeks, absentee ballots are made available, early voting at certain sites is scheduled and the area’s most popular candidates’ forum will be conducted as the traditional primary election day fast approaches.

The traditional primary in the current election cycle is set for Tuesday, August 24. On this date, all of the South County precincts will open, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., to serve the region’s registered voters interested in supporting candidates seeking election either as Republicans or Democrats. The primary ballot also will include candidates for non-partisan offices. ballot

However, candidates running under smaller party banners or as WRIs – write ins — or as NPAs – no party affiliations – will appear only on the general election ballot in November, according to Chuck Smith, senior policy analyst in the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office.

In addition, no proposed amendments are included on the primary election ballot. The several proposed issues that have generated controversy this year such as a possible penny sales tax increase for transportation purposes and potential mandated opportunity for voter weigh-in on land use issues will appear only on the general election ballot in November.

In the weeks before the August 24 election day, though, voters can mark either absentee ballots or participate in early voting.

Absentee ballots became available this week and can be requested by calling the Hillsborough Supervisor of Election office or by making the request online through the office’s website. Completed absentee ballots can be returned by mail or given to election personnel at either of the two South County early voting sites until August 21. But, by law, absentee ballots cannot be turned in at precincts during the primary election process on August 24.

Early primary voting begins Monday, August 9, and continues through Saturday, August 21. For South County voters, early balloting can be done at either of two locations, the SouthShore Regional Library on 19th Avenue and the Riverview Library on Riverview Drive.

Meanwhile, many local candidates are polishing their remarks to be made at the South County’s popular Balm Forum. A fixture on the region’s political landscape, the forum is sponsored each election season by the Balm Civic Association and draws candidates from throughout the county seeking local votes. All but two candidates - Kevin Hagan and Josh Burgin, both vying for county commission seats – have responded favorably to the invitation, Marcella O’Steen, association president, said.

This year the forum is slated for 6:30 PM, Wednesday, August 4, in the Balm Civic Center at the County Road 672 apex. Candidates make three-minute presentations and then take questions. However, O’Steen noted, voters often learn more about candidates and their positions when the formalities end, “everyone crowds around tables laden with homemade desserts and conversation flows freely. It’s one of our best opportunities to ‘read’ our candidates,” she added. On the local level, South County voters will have the chance to support candidates seeking one district county commission seat and two county-wide commission seats. In the district one commission slot, currently filled by Rose Ferlita, Republicans will be able to choose between Sandra

Murman and Trey Rustmann. The unopposed Democrat in that race will appear on the general election ballot.

In the commission district 7 at-large race, Republican incumbent Mark Sharpe is being opposed by newcomer Josh Burgin. Sharpe did not draw any democratic opposition. Two other candidates, one a NPA and the other seeking a WRI, can only appear on the ballot in the general election.

Another at large commission seat is in play, but each of the three candidates is running under a different banner and therefore will be on the general election ballot.

Regarding county school board seats affecting South County voters, the non-partisan district 4 seat is being contested by Richard Bartels, Jennifer Faliero, Stacy White and Kirk Faryniasz.

Another school board seat, in district 2, is being sought both by Frank Hernandez and Candy Olson.

Primary voters also will be asked to make choices for two non-partisan judicial seats which are filled on a county-wide basis. Liz Rice and Zilla Vasquez are contending for the Group 4 judicial seat while Dick Greco Jr. and Lanell Williams-Yulee want the nod for the Group 10 seat.

At the state level, a total of 14 candidates are seeking Florida’s governorship, but most are NPAs or running under a small party banner without opposition and therefore will appear only on the November ballot.

South County primary voters will be able to choose from Mike McCalister, Bill McCollum and Rick Scott on the Republican ballot while Democrats will be considering either Brian P. Moore or Alex Sink.

Three Republicans want the state’s attorney general nomination: Holly Benson, Pam Bondi, and Jeff Kottkamp. Two Democrats also want the title: Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber.

Still on the state level, several candidates are after the chief financial officer’s job and several more are vying to become commissioner of agriculture. But, in each case the candidates all are running under different banners without opposition in that party designation and they will not be on the primary ballot.

Legislatively speaking, no state senate seat will appear on the primary ballot, but three state house races will. Daryl Ervin Rouson, April Danielle Sheffield and Michael Steinberg all are looking for the Dem’s nod in District 55. Rachel V. Burgin and Marc Johnson both want the District 56 Republican nomination. And , in District 67, Jeremiah “JJ” Guccione, Robert K. McCann and Greg Stuebe all are looking for Republican support.

Perhaps one of the strangest twists in this early segment of the 2010 election season is in the race for Florida’s junior U.S. Senate seat. A total of 22 candidates have qualified, including Charlie Crist, Florida’s sitting governor. But 17 of them, including Crist, will not appear on the primary ballot, most because of no party designation.

The national senatorial candidates on the primary ballot for Republicans include William Escoffery III, William Billy Kogut and Marco Rubio. Democrats will have more choices, from among Glenn A. Burkett, Maurice A. Ferre, Jeff Greene and Kendrick Meek.

Three congressional districts will be on the primary ballot, each of them touching the South County to a degree. In the largest SoCo district, No. 12, Republicans will be looking at John W. Lindsey Jr. and Dennis Ross while District 12 Democrats will be considering Lori Edwards and Doug Tudor. A fifth candidate is running unopposed under the Tea Party banner.

In District 11, Eddie Adams Jr., Tony Buntyn, Thomas Castellano and Mike Pendergast are the GOP ballot candidates. Among the Democrats, Tim Curtis is trying to unseat incumbent Kathy Castor.

And, in the third congressional district, No. 9, only Democrats will be making choices, between Anita de Palma and Phil Hindahl. The GOP candidate has no opposition.

While early voting ballots and absentees are collected and secured before the traditional primary election day, their numbers do not accrue until formal primary count is tallied after the polls close on election day, Smith noted.

Copyright 2010 Melody Jameson

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