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Voters urged to be ready for Tuesday

By BARBARA BEHRENDT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 3, 2002

INVERNESS -- The signs are posted, the campaign fliers delivered, the political forums wrapped up and soon it will be the voters who take center stage in Election 2002.

Tuesday is Election Day and Citrus County voters will help choose a governor and federal, state and local elected officials. The ballot also will include 10 proposed amendments to the state Constitution.

Citrus County Supervisor of Elections Susan Gill is urging voters to do their homework on the candidates, the amendments and even their precinct.

She suggested that people study and mark the sample ballot mailed to each registered voter and take the ballot with them to the polling place Tuesday. That is especially important on the amendments because unprepared voters who have not already decided on the amendments and numerous races can slow lines at the precincts.

Gill also is concerned that Tuesday's biggest issue might be where to vote.

With the redistricting that took place after the 2000 census and the continued growth in certain regions of the county, many voters have had their precincts changed. Six new precincts have been added, splitting up old precinct lines. And because many more people are expected to vote Tuesday than voted in the September primary, Gill said she wants everyone to be sure where to vote.

New voter registration cards listing proper precincts were sent out during the summer. Under Florida law voters must vote in the precinct where they live. But increasingly some voters opt to vote before Election Day through the absentee ballot method. Late last week Gill said she saw a constant stream of voters visiting her office to cast ballots.

About 10,000 absentee ballots were requested and by late last week nearly 8,100 already had been returned.

There are 84,864 registered voters in Citrus County eligible to vote Tuesday. Of that total, 34,171 are registered Democrats and 35,158 are registered Republicans. The remainder have listed another affiliation or no affiliation.

While gubernatorial general elections traditionally pull fewer voters than presidential general elections, Gill said she was still hoping for a turnout of about 66 percent. Four years ago, the last gubernatorial election turnout was 58.3 percent. In the 2000 presidential election, 70.1 percent of the eligible Citrus voters cast ballots.

"I'm thinking that perhaps between what happened in the 2000 election with how close it was . . . and increased interest after 9/11 that we do have these freedoms" that turnout would be good, Gill said.

"Plus, we do have hot races at all levels," which Gill said is a sure way to encourage voters to get to the polls.

Party leaders also have been encouraging a good turnout, especially among those who want to vote for their party's candidates.

"They need to go out and vote for Democrats because the future of Florida lies with the Democrats," said Joe Cino, who is chairman of the county's Democratic Executive Committee.

Cino also is arranging rides to the polls, if needed. Call Cino's business phone at 628-7191 or the party's headquarters at 637-2347.

The Republicans also are providing rides. Call 560-0295 for information.

"I respect the intelligence of voters," said Weston Stow, chairman of the county's Republican Executive Committee. "Do I want them to vote Republican? Of course. But more than anything, I want people to think about what they're doing, not basing their decision on emotion or the last negative ad they've seen."

While Gill, Cino and Stow can all find plenty of things about politics to disagree about, they all agree that this year the glut of negative campaigning has hurt candidates from both parties and the parties themselves.

"I have always been against negative campaigning," Stow said. "I don't know whether I'm just becoming more aware but this has been a mean, mean season."

The spate of negative advertisements by candidates is one of the reasons Cino said he and his wife, Cindy, have decided to step down from party leadership positions after the election. She is the vice-chairwoman for the executive committee.

"This is the worst election I've seen and I've been around Citrus County for a long time," he said. "I'm really tired of it. It's really despicable."

Gill agreed that there have been plenty of negative slants in the campaigns this year. "The political consultants they have found out that it works, unfortunately," she said. But while repeating negative attacks against opponents do stick in voters' minds, Gill noted, retention of messages "will happen with positive campaigning, too."

In addition to helping select Florida's next governor, voters also will be choosing a new attorney general and the commissioner of agriculture as well as deciding whether to retain two judges on the Supreme Court and four on the District Court of Appeal.

Citrus voters are also part of the 5th Congressional District and will decide whether to give Democrat Karen Thurman another term or instead elect Republican Ginny Brown-Waite or one of two candidates without party affiliation, Jack Gargan and Brian Moore.

In state offices most Citrus voters will choose between Republican Nancy Argenziano and Democrat Richard Mitchell for the District 3 state Senate seat. Voters west of U.S. 19 are in District 11 and will choose between Republican Mike Fasano and Democrat Lee Cannon.

In the state House District 43 race, the candidates are Democrat James "Jimmy" Carr, Republican Charles Dean and Libertarian Neil Polimeni.

Two County Commission seats will also be decided on Tuesday. Republican incumbent Gary Bartell faces Democratic challenger Phillip Mulrain in the race for the District 2 seat while in District 4, Republican Jim Fowler, the incumbent, faces challenger Scott Adams, who has no party affiliation.

Crystal River voters will be selecting a mayor and two members for the City Council. Ron Kitchen, the incumbent, is challenged by Ray Wallace in the nonpartisan race for mayor. Challenger Roger Proffer opposes incumbent Bonnie Taylor for Seat 2 on the council and three candidates are vying for Seat 4. They are George Dluhy, Robert Holmes and Richard Schwarer.

Voters also will choose three people for the Mosquito Control Board. Brenda K. Buzby, T.J. "Tommy" Corkery and Michael B. Harris are vying for Seat 1. Greg Biance, Henry "Hank" J. Hemrick, Gerald Kelley, Gary Lee Meiman Sr. and Stephen Pochis are seeking Seat 2. And the candidates for Seat 3 are Keith Anderson, Jim R. Crosley, Albert Jordan and Winston Perry.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Gill anticipates a smooth count with the first results, those from absentee ballots, ready shortly after the polls close.

Anyone needing information can contact Gill's office at 341-6740.

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