After checking to make sure it wasn’t actually a story from “The Onion,” only one conclusion can possibly be drawn from the study: You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Take a look around, people. These are crazy times. Bipartisanship and civility have been washed away by a flood of hate and conspiracies spewed on Twitter and Facebook, and depending upon your point of view — which is likely partisan and unbending — you’d probably say the same political bile also shows up on cable stations like FOX and CNN as well.
It’s ugly out there. Ugly, and sad.
Even so, here’s the seven things you need to know for Nov. 6:
1. National politics is a war zone these days — the 2020 election is going to be off the chain bonkers and drive us all insane, promise! — but don’t let it get you down. Remember, local politics, while not nearly as sexy, thrilling and cable-TV worthy, is where you can see real differences made in your community.
Guess what? Neither Mariella Smith nor Victor Crist are going to ever vote on President Donald Trump’s wall. Ken Hagan won’t get to help pick the next Supreme Court justice. Fentrice Driskell isn’t going to fix immigration, and Angela Birdsong, as far as we know, isn’t going to fix the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.
What the local candidates who end up winning in the General Election on Tuesday, November 6, can do, however, is help fix our roads and solve our traffic issues, make our schools better and safer, keep our police and firefighters paid and help spur improvements in our local neighborhoods.
Do you think Trump or any senator has ever heard of Bruce B. Downs?
Don’t B. Silly. (sorry)
Focus and do your part to put the right people who you think can help your community the most into office on Tuesday.
2. Maybe if there was more polling on local races, there would be more interest, but know this — the most interesting race in our area is likely to be Driskell, potentially a rising star in the Democratic Party, vs. Republican incumbent Shawn Harrison, for the State House District 63 seat.
The seat, in a word, could be “flip-a-licious.”
Harrison won the District comfortably in 2010, lost it to Democrat Mark Danish in 2012 by 728 votes, reclaimed it from Danish in 2014 by 2,381 votes, and in 2016 held off Democratic challenger and fellow former Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione by 1,363 votes.
In a district with more registered Democrats than Republicans, and potentially a prevailing wind at the backs of Democrats, the candidates are likely to be separated by a small margin of votes.
An SEA Polling & Strategic Design survey commissioned by Florida Democrats in September gave Harrison a 45-39 advantage, but voters with the highest level of interest tabbed Driskell by a 58-41 advantage.
If the blue wave is a real thing — and national polling suggests it might be — Driskell has a chance to flip the seat again.
3. Longtime Tampa Palms resident and Republican Victor Crist, who is term-limited out of his current District 2 seat, which covers New Tampa, on the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, is running for the District 5 county-wide seat. He also could be in trouble.
Democrat Mariella Smith, a local businessman woman and activist, has been able to keep fundraising pace with Crist, and is viewed as a serious threat to the continuation of his political career.
“It’s close. It’s really, really close,” Crist said this week when asked how the campaign was going.
4. Even though it’s a non-presidential year, the 2018 ballot is fire when it comes to statewide races.
It is topped by a number of key hotly-contested races that have transcended being merely statewide races — outgoing Republican Governor Rick Scott is trying to send longtime Democratic senator Bill Nelson into retirement, and if you haven’t found the Ron DeSantis-Andrew Gillum race for Governor entertaining, then you are just not paying attention. Which you should be.
Who do you want in control when the next hurricane or other natural disaster slams into Florida?
5. Your ballot this year has 12 amendments on it.
There’s not enough room to break them all down, but here’s a pro-tip: take a little time to dig them up on the web and read up on each before you show up to vote.
Some of the more discussed amendments, which require 60 percent of the vote to pass, are:
Amendment 1 — You can vote yes for an additional $25,000 homestead exemption for homes valued over $125,000, but that’s going to cut into your city and county money pot and could lead to cuts in services or even higher local tax rates.
Amendment 4 — Vote yes to grant felons — but not those convicted of murder or felony sex crimes — the right to vote after they have served their time. Vote no to make them keep waiting a minimum of five years before they can even apply to appeal those voting rights.
Amendment 13 — A vote yes would ban all dog racing in Florida by Dec. 31, 2020 (although the dog tracks would be allowed to continue to operate card rooms and slot machines). Vote no to let the dog racing continue.
(Note: Amendment 8 was stricken from the ballot by the Florida Supreme Court)
6. There are two referendums on the ballot in New Tampa, one for transportation and another for education.
The transportation referendum would increase Hillsborough’s sale tax by a penny for 30 years, generating $300 million a year. The money has been earmarked for road improvements and public transportation enhancements, and will be carefully managed by an oversight committee. Say what you will about the increase, but a solid, carefully thought out plan is certainly deserving of the voters’ consideration.
The same goes for the education referendum, which would impose a half-cent sales tax increase, but an aggressive marketing plan presented at a series of town halls, as well as a list of improvements the money will be spent on, appears well-reasoned.
Both referendums will be enticing to voters frustrated by Tampa Bay’s woeful transportation issues and schools that seem to be falling apart.
However, while organizers of both groups insist they aren’t hurting the other, voting for what is effectively two tax increases might be a tough pill for many locals to swallow.
7. Blue wave, red wave, no wave, grab your surfboard and get out there on Tuesday and vote.