St. Petersburg Times Online: Election 2000
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Democrats bustle to get the vote out

An army of volunteers is unleashed to phone voters, ferry others to the polls and wave signs to get the attention of passers-by.

[Times photo: Stefanie Boyar]
Voters cast their ballots at Precinct 921 in the Sun City Florida Room Tuesday morning.

By BABITA PERSAUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000


TAMPA -- It's 7 a.m. on Election Day and and Mike Scionti is steering his presidential blue Cadillac DeVille from precinct to precinct -- Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church, Palma Ceia United Methodist Church.

He is driving past manicured lawns with Bush-Cheney signs and complaining.

The Hillsborough Democratic Party boss didn't like something he saw on television. One of the stations cut short from Al Gore's early-morning stop in Tampa to talk about the Bucs. "Who's talking about the Bucs?" Scionti says. "It's Election Day."

In a key state, in a key county, the outcome of the 2000 presidential campaign boiled down to how well the local party gets the vote out.

At the Democratic helm is the 64-year-old Scionti, a former high school political science teacher, former head of the state Athletic Commission, a man who leans forward when he talks, who took over the party machinery a year ago with one goal: deliver Hillsborough County to Gore.

"If the voter turnout is great, the Democrats win," Scionti says, driving past the West Tampa Convention Center, a precinct with long lines of voters. "The Republicans win when people don't vote."

The party spent nearly $105,000 on rallies, spaghetti dinners and fish fries; distributed 20,000 door hangers with Gore's face; and spent $16,000 on yard signs and Gore-Lieberman T-shirts.

"The Democratic party did something this year that it never did before," Scionti said. "It got involved in every candidate that was running for office."

And on Tuesday, the army was unleashed: 5,000 volunteers working the precincts.

The Democratic Party headquarters bustled like a train station. Volunteers telephoned registered Democrats until polls closed at 7 p.m. They drove nursing home residents to polls. They waved signs on street corners -- "working visibility," as the party faithful call it.

How useful is all that on Election Day?

Very, Scionti says.

An undecided voter might see someone he or she likes holding a sign and that will result in a vote for that person, he said. "But then, the reverse of that is also true.

"Let me tell you, that's how people vote. Nothing to do with issues. Nothing."

Scionti's day included a stop at the West Tampa Sandwich shop in the heart of the Democratic stronghold of West Tampa.

It is a key neighborhood for Scionti. And as coffee shops go, this one looms large. It is a gathering spot for people who consume politics with every meal. The Wall Street Journal has been here, Newsweek, Time -- and Tipper Gore.

The cup and saucer she used to drink cafe con leche is preserved under the counter, the red lipstick still intact -- wrapped in cellophane.

"I told them put it in a case and display it," Scionti says.

"Gore's the man," Scionti shouts over the political chatter.

At Highland United Methodist Church, he checks on poll watchers, patting them on the back, keeping the energy up from the Gore pep rally earlier in the day.

"How's voting over here," he says to a volunteer at Beulah Baptist Church, a mostly African-American precinct.

"Good," says the poll worker.

It's the answer Scionti wanted. "We vote, we win," he says. "And if we don't win, at least the people came out and voted and the will of the people has spoken."

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From the Times election desk

National
  • Recount: Presidency hangs on Florida duel
  • Hour by hour, outcome gets more uncertain
  • State by state
  • Republicans make gains in skirmish for 83 seats
  • Uneasy mood in Austin flips as votes do
  • Voters swayed by economy, health care, education, Social Security
  • Too close to call in Florida but TV did -- regretfully
  • Presidential campaign lures people to polls
  • Fight for Congress: no clear-cut winner
  • Election 2000 in brief

  • State
  • Nelson takes Senate seat
  • Republican Crist well on path to victory
  • Incumbent Crow slightly ahead
  • Race turns into nail-biter
  • Byrd dominating in bid for third term
  • Farkas soundly beats Fischer
  • Foster breaks ahead, takes lead over Baldwin
  • Wallace jumps to early lead over his challenger
  • Henriquez holds strong lead
  • Cowin gains ground in home county
  • Incumbent strides ahead of newcomer
  • Justice leading Kersteen by a comfortable margin
  • Murman headed for second term
  • Newcomer battle ends with Republican Berfield as victor
  • Waters blocks Brennan challenge
  • Miller's hopes look to be affirmed
  • Miller overpowers former Democrat
  • Floridians keep right to elect judges
  • Crist has slight lead on Castor
  • Thurman keeps District 5 seat
  • Bilirakis has big lead in District 9
  • C.W. Bill Young winning handily
  • Bullet train heading for success
  • Davis wins third term
  • Putnam takes early lead
  • Incumbent Russell's win thinner than predicted
  • GOP Rep. Miller is likely victor
  • Floridians keep right to elect judges
  • Gallagher coasts to victory and his old job
  • Littlefield again defeats McLaughlin
  • Fasano, Fiorentino winning return trip
  • Election roundup
  • Briefly

  • Pinellas
  • Pinellas commission now full
  • One race won by landslide, another by a single vote
  • Lealman heads toward fire tax
  • Bobel, Dedman win approval
  • All changes to charter pass voters' muster
  • Peluso, Henry lead pack of 5 candidates

  • Hillsborough
  • Voters favor most amendments
  • Democrats bustle to get the vote out
  • Iorio builds her solid lead on record
  • Holt closing in on a third term
  • Term limits prevailing
  • Ober poised in attorney race
  • Republicans may reign in commission
  • Ake appears on his way to keep tenure unbroken
  • Results mixed on city amendments
  • Incumbent trails in four-way race
  • Two incumbents, Miller leading

  • Pasco
  • Altman holds slim lead
  • Challenger upsets incumbent Cannon
  • Second run is the charm for Schrader
  • Johnson captures Meadow Pointe post

  • Hernando
  • Bernardini bests longtime adversary
  • Sikes will succeed her sister upon retirement
  • Experienced teacher wins out over mom
  • Williams captures historic win
  • Early tally: Andrews first, Martin second, Hollander third
  • Democrats take over the board
  • Big ticket polls' big draw

  • Citrus
  • Activist Warren sails past Cooper
  • Council incumbents out; new mayor in
  • Schultz wins, will serve a final term ending in 2004
  • Hickey wins Citrus superintendent race
  • Bush is easy winner in the schoolhouse
  • Eager voters met with long lines
  • Candidate bounces out of hospital to ply voters


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