Dispatches from the Sunshine State

St. Petersburg Mayoral Primary: Scene Report

In just shy of an hour, the polls close on St. Petersburg’s mayoral primary. I’ve crisscrossed the city and made some calls to give you an update. Here’s a brief rundown:

The Pinellas County Elections office has the turnout so far at 6 percent. With early voting, total turnout hovers around 18 percent. I almost feel excited we may break 20 percent. Then, I fall back into depression over my dimished expectations

As rush hour begins, campaign supporters with signs are on nearly every intersection. No, wait. Those are just panhandlers

Bay News 9 already found a party to crash: Bill Foster’s event at Midtown Sundries. I guess we know who they bet on …

At Push Ultra Lounge and Red Mesa Cantina, several Kathleen Ford and Deveron Gibbons supporters set up for tonight’s election results fete. Just looking at the signs out front (see above), I can tell this is going to be one skitzophrenic party …

Jamie Bennett is holding his campaign affair at home — 768 Pinellas Point S. Bennett was chopping up a pork tenderloin just out of the smoker when I caught up with him. “Just look for the 100 Bennett signs in the lawn,” he says …

Two-time mayoral candidate Ed Helm is planning an “election celebration” at St. Pete Diner on 34th Street North. Helm tells me “a good Democrat owns it, there’s good food and the original blue plate special.” He guaranteed the food is free, too …

John Warren and Richard Eldridge have not gotten back to me. The only reason I can imagine for not having a party is expecting a loss …

UPDATE: Warren is inviting supporters to Savannah’s Cafe from 7 p.m. “until one minute after my concession speech, which for the fun of it will be crafted and delivered by those in attendance.” …

And still no sign of Paul Congemi. I even checked the KFC on 34th Street.

Dispatches from the Sunshine State

St. Petersburg Mayoral Primary: And the winner is …

IMG_6593

Well, we don’t know who the two winning candidates will be until after 7 p.m. when the polls close. But I already know who the loser is (besides Paul Congemi): St. Petersburg.

I don’t have to look at the latest voter turnout results to say St. Pete citizens have abdicated their duties as an electorate. After visiting precincts on the north, south and west sides of town, I can see voters largely stayed home from this mayoral primary.

But the numbers back me up, too.

IMG_6592 (2)As of 2 p.m., Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections spokesperson Nancy Whitlock says turnout is estimated at 4.8 percent. Add the 12 percent of mail-in ballots already counted and just over 16 percent of registered voters in St. Petersburg have performed their civic duty. Although more folks will vote after work, some experts say voter turnout will only land around 25 percent.

Blame what you want: the rain, an uninspiring field of candidates or a really long line at the DMV. Whatever the reason, residents are losing a chance to decide the direction of the ‘burg over the next four years.

Unfortunately, St. Petersburg residents largely ignore local races. In 2007, for the election of two city councilmembers, a mere 9 percent of registered voters showed up to polling places. In 2005, only 20 percent voted for mayor. You might chalk that up to Mayor Rick Baker’s popularity, but in 2001, in the last mayoral primary with 9 candidates, only 25 percent of voters showed up.

Are three-quarters of St. Pete citizens really that indifferent to who runs this city?

For those who did vote, and eagerly await the results, I’m reporting all evening for my site and Creative Loafing’s Daily Loaf blog. Considering the rain has prevented the always-interesting sign waving battles, I’m attending the various Election Day watch parties for some real action, and hopefully, free food. If you want to join me, here’s a rundown of the events:

Larry Williams will hold his party at the old Louis Papa’s, 1530 4th Street North.

Scott Wagman hosts a shindig at the Outback Steakhouse, conveniently only three blocks away at 1900 4th Street North.

Bill Foster will await his results at Midtown Sundries.

And in the weirdest coincidence, Kathleen Ford and Deveron Gibbons will both party down at 128 Third Street South. Ford supporters will chow down at the Red Mesa Cantina on the bottom floor, while Gibbons’ crew watches results at Push Ultra Lounge upstairs. I’m counting on some awkward mingling moments  . . .

Any info on other election day parties would be much appreciated.