All around the county, the election is the word
By ROBERT KING
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 9, 2000
It was true of the bowlers at the Spring Hill Lanes and the diners at Nellie's Restaurant.
It was true of the shoppers outside the Sears department store in the Coastal Way Shopping Center and with the people greeting visitors at Weeki Wachee Spring.
People in Hernando County went on with their lives Wednesday. But it was clear that the unfinished business of Tuesday's presidential election was at the forefront of their minds and conversations.
There were conspiracy theories about fraud and gripes about the Electoral College. There was general amazement that in the computer age the results were taking so long. Above all, there were people with bleary eyes after a long night spent watching televised returns.
At the bowling alley, transplanted New Yorkers mulled the results as they prepared for their Wednesday afternoon game. Several voted for George W. Bush. None were thrilled with the idea that nobody knows who America's next president will be.
Anthony Igneri, 70, said it stinks. Michael Figliuolo, 80, was worried the voting irregularities in South Florida were the product of "a little flimflamming." Sal Dantone, a 74-year-old retired baker, couldn't help but think Al Gore was robbed. "A lot of bad things are going on," Dantone said.
At Nellie's Restaurant in Weeki Wachee, Leo and Nancy Chenell talked politics over lunch with their friends, Ann and Jim Augustine. All four are retirees, ranging in age from 73 to 92, who live in the High Point community and are avid Gore supporters.
Nancy Chenell, 84, went to bed with the race still up in the air at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. But her curiosity wouldn't let her rest. She rose to check the TV news at midnight, 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.
"I was really, really upset. I knew it was going to be close. But not that close," Chenell said. "If they say Bush won Florida, it's not right."
If George W. Bush wins Florida, he should be grateful that the two newest grandchildren of Donna and James Keaton were born before Election Day.
The Keatons, a retired couple who live in Brookridge, were in Indianapolis until last week, determined to be there for the birth of their newest grandbabies.
They had made no provision for using absentee ballots. Had the babies been later arrivals, the Keatons might not have returned to Florida before Election Day.
But the last of the two babies arrived on Halloween, enabling the Keatons to return to Florida in time to vote for Bush. "I am glad we did," Mrs. Keaton said. "Our votes might make the difference."
At Weeki Wachee Spring, two mermaid shows and a routine slate of river cruises drew only a light crowd. It gave Carol Vigneault and Nancy Paxton, who work at the attraction's front gate, time to talk about the election.
"I think whoever wins the popular vote should get it," Paxton said. "But that's not the way the government works." As it looked Wednesday, Vice President Al Gore appears to have won the popular vote. But the odds were stacked against him prevailing in the Electoral College given the likelihood that Bush would collect Florida's 25 electoral votes.
Alfred McKethan, a former banker and business leader and who for many years was Hernando County's most influential power broker, says this presidential election is the most exciting in his 92 years.
McKethan, a Gore supporter, said he has long questioned the logic of the Electoral College system. Maybe now, he said, the nation will rethink its election process. Despite all the uncertainty surrounding Florida's vote, McKethan is confident there will be a valid result. "I think that the recount will be properly handled and will be correct," he said.
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From the Times election desk
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State Pinellas Hillsborough Pasco Hernando Citrus
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From the AP