LARGO — Election Day is finally here for those who live in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.
Pinellas County voters on Tuesday will decide in a special election who will replace for U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, a Republican who died in October after holding the seat for 43 years.
On the ballot are Republican David Jolly, Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby.
While this is a Pinellas County race, a now-notorious slew of attack ads have run across the entire Tampa Bay media market some 200 times a day. And on Monday, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office posted a statement reminding voters there that they can’t vote in this election.
“That’s a Pinellas race,” Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Craig Latimer wrote on Twitter as well as the elections office website.
Pinellas polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. District 13 encompasses most of Pinellas from Dunedin south, except for parts of downtown and south St. Petersburg. Tens of thousands already have cast a ballot by mail or at an early voting site.
National media have been keeping tabs on the congressional race. Political parties and special interest groups have used it as a sounding board for campaign messages going into the 2014 midterm elections, and many see the results as a precursor to elections in November.
Tuesday’s outcome will be the culmination of a drama that has played out for five months since Young announced he would retired at the end of his term, and then died a week later.
Republicans scrambled to choose a candidate, and Jolly, a Washington lobbyist and former aide to Young, defeated state Rep. Kathleen Peters and newcomer Mark Bircher in a divisive Republican primary election in January.
Former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who moved to St. Petersburg to run for the seat, became the sole Democrat once St. Petersburg lawyer Jessica Ehrlich backed out of consideration. Sink had extensive name recognition as the former CFO and from her unsuccessful run for governor against Rick Scott in 2010, as well as fundraising prowess.
As Sink and Jolly squared off, outside money began to pour in. Groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and House Majority PAC bought airtime and digital ad space – more than $9 million in all. “Obamacare” was a major issue in the race, although Social Security, Medicare and offshore oil drilling became key topics, as Jolly withstood attacks for his lobbying record and Sink for her time as CFO.
The special election winner will have to run again in the regularly scheduled November elections.
The eve of Election Day proved somewhat low key for the candidates. Sink took doughnuts and coffee to campaign volunteers, while Jolly threw out the first pitch in a Philadelphia Phillies-Atlanta Braves spring training game in Clearwater.
Also Tuesday, several Pinellas cities will have elections:
* Belleair Bluffs: Joe Barkley, George Lawton and Taylour Shimkus vie two city commission seats.
* Clearwater: David Allbritton, Bill Jonson and Konrad McCree Jr. are running for Council Seat 4, and Hoyt Hamilton and Jon-Paul Rosa are competing for Seat 5.
* Gulfport: Paul Ray and Yolanda Roman are running for the Ward III seat.
* Indian Shores: Michael “Mike” Petruccelli, Diantha Schear and Patrick Soranno are running for two council seats.
* Kenneth City: Ellen Dalbo, Philip Redisch and Barbara Roberts are running for two council seats.
* Madeira Beach: Mayor Travis Palladeno faces Victor A. Cucaro, and Nancy L. Hodges and William J. Wright are running for the District 2 commission seat.
* Pinellas Park: Eugene F. Hendry, Patricia F. Johnson and Keith V. Sabiel vie for the Council Seat 2.
* Redington Shores: Mary Beth Henderson and Casey Wojcik are running for the District 3 commission seat.
* Safety Harbor: Incumbent Joe Ayoub, Nancy J. Besore and Andy Steingold are running for mayor. Dean Harmeson, Andy Zodrow, Carlos Diaz and Ray R. Irvin are running for commission seats.
* South Pasadena: Harris Blair, Max V. Elson, Arthur Penny and Robert F. Small are running for City Commission.
* St. Pete Beach: Incumbent Steve McFarlin and Maria Lowe are running for mayor, and Terri Finnerty, Lorraine Huhn, James Douglas Anderson and Gregory Premer are running for commission seats.
* Tarpon Springs: Chris Hrabovsky, Joe Muzio and Rea Sieber are running for a commission seat.