Bitter tone of campaigns extends to Florida polls

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The bitter tone of the campaign ads aired throughout Florida’s race for governor appeared to extend to the voting booth Tuesday.

Incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist have been locked in a tight race for weeks now, and their campaigns have been negative and personal.

Some voters described the multimillionaire Scott as “sleazy” a “scumbag” they couldn’t stand to see win a second term. Others said Crist was “wishy-washy” but he won some over because of his support for gay marriage and legalizing medical marijuana.

Cindy Taylor of Jacksonville said she and her husband, who is a mechanic and truck driver, voted for Scott because he was “the lesser of two evils.” However, she did think Scott has helped to protect their Second Amendment rights in the state.

“At least he made it where we can pull a gun on somebody who breaks into our house,” she said.

In Clearwater, 20-year-old Rachel Conversi voted for Crist.

“I just think Rick Scott’s really shady and I don’t support his actions so far,” she said. “I think Crist has had a change of heart and he’s a better choice for Florida than Rick Scott is.”

Other than a few minor delays, voting appeared to be going smoothly. Precincts across most of Florida opened at 7 a.m. EST Tuesday, and precincts in the Panhandle opened an hour later. More than 3 million Floridians voted early.

“We might even see some records broken with regards to the number of absentee ballots that were mailed and that we’re seeing returned,” Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

“Everything is going very smoothly and in fact I think this may be the first time all the polls opened on time,” Detzner said, adding, “The tone of the elections community, the supervisors, the volunteers, is very positive. I think people have a sense of electricity about participating in the democratic process.”

Only two of the state’s 27 congressional districts were expected to be close.

Floridians also were deciding whether to legalize medical marijuana, dedicate billions of dollars to conservation efforts and let the outgoing governor fill three expected vacancies on the state Supreme Court in 2019. Under the state constitution, each measure needs 60 percent approval to pass.

Under Amendment 2, to obtain medical marijuana, patients would have to get a doctor’s certification of their condition, which in turn would qualify them for a patient ID card they could use at licensed dispensaries.

Stephen Carr, a 31-year-old law student, biked to his Gainesville polling place to vote for Crist. The Democrat voted against Amendment 2.

“I’m just concerned it’s going to lead to a lot of people manipulating the system illegally to get marijuana on the up-and-up,” he said. “I’m not totally opposed to legalizing marijuana, but I just think it would be better to wait.”

Gainesville cab driver Leonard Rushing voted for Crist and favored legalizing medical marijuana.

“I ain’t never seen marijuana hurt nobody,” he said. “If you can legalize cigarettes, you can legalize marijuana. It says right on the package: cigarettes give you cancer.”