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Pinellas heads to the polls

Mark Parker



Election officials discuss incoming results at the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Office during the 2021 St. Petersburg municipal primary. Photo by Mark Parker.

Residents across Pinellas County are heading to the polls today to help decide several local and state races ahead of the Nov. 8 general election.

Although Florida is a closed-primary state and voters can only cast their ballots for candidates in their registered party, Pinellas residents will still help shape the races for governor, congress, county commission and the school board.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. today, and despite nearly 150,000 of the county’s 690,520 registered voters casting their ballot early or through the mail, the Supervisor of Elections Office told the Catalyst that turnout is brisk for a primary. As of 11:30 a.m., over 17,000 people voted in person.

“And that’s really good for before noon,” said Pinellas Deputy Supervisor of Elections Dustin Chase. “We’ve had really strong election day turnout so far.”

Chase said the office is excited for Primary Election Day, as residents can once again exercise their right to vote, and it marks the culmination of several months of work by thousands of people. He explained that the elections office began preparing for this year’s primary and general election just a month after the 2020 races concluded.

“And we hope people come out and participate,” he added. “Anyone who has not voted yet still has a lot of time.”

Chase noted that the office’s website – – provides a wealth of information, and polls are open until 7 p.m. With Florida recently completing the redistricting process, he encourages residents to check their polling locations before heading out to cast their ballots. Voters must also bring photo identification that includes a signature.

Since Florida is a closed-primary state, residents will cast varying ballots according to their voter affiliation. However, local Republicans, Democrats, Independents and those without a party affiliation will all cast votes for school board and judicial races.

Pinellas Democrats have a say in the state’s race for governor. St. Petersburg Congressman Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried are the front runners. Crist said he would cast his ballot at a local church Tuesday.

In addition, Democrats will choose a U.S. Senator from a field that includes Ricardo De La Fuente, Val Demings, Brian Rush and William Sanchez, and either Christopher Bradley or Kathy Castor as U.S. Representative for District 14. Republicans will decide between Anna Paulina Luna, Kevin Hayslett and Amanda Makki in their District 14 congressional primary.

Republicans also have the only say in the county commission race. Incumbent Dave Eggers is running against Heather Aynne Vernillo, and since there are no Democratic challengers, Tuesday’s leading vote-getter will win the seat outright.

Debbie Buschman and Brian Scott are vying for the District 2 at-large seat, with the winner facing incumbent Democrat Pat Gerard in the Nov. 8 election.

Three commission candidates are running unopposed – Republican Chris Latvala in District 5, Republican Kathleen Peters in District 6 and Democrat Rene Flowers in District 7. Latvala is a term-limited former state representative, while Peters and Flowers currently sit on the board.

Four school board seats are up for grabs in Tuesday’s primary, with incumbent Lisa Cane, Brad S. DeCorte and Bronson Oudshoff vying to represent the District 2 at-large seat. Keesha Benson, Dawn Peters and Carl “Z” Zimmerman are facing off in District 3, also an at-large seat.

Brian Martin, Stephanie Meyer and Kimberly Works are running in District 6, while incumbent Caprice Edmond faces challenger Maria Di Fiore Solanki in District 7. Both are single-member districts.

The Pinellas Canvassing Board will convene at 3 p.m. Tuesday to begin processing ballots. The Supervisor of Elections Office will release unofficial results after 7 p.m.

For more information, visit the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections website here.

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