By Matt Wiley
After months of campaigning and billions of dollars spent on political advertising, the nation’s votes are in and U.S. President Barack Obama has won reelection, as have several local candidates here in Hillsborough County. Closer to home, one New Tampa resident will replace another, following a tight race for the new District 63 Florida House seat.
Despite early rain showers and a large volume of early voting and absentee ballot participation, long lines still formed at voting precincts across the New Tampa area on November 6 for the 2012 general election, which decided which candidate would become the President of the United States, as well as who would represent the New Tampa area in the U.S. Congress, and in a number of local governmental positions.
“The line filled the lobby for about four hours this morning,” said Sheryl Henley, clerk of precinct 359, located at the New Tampa Recreation Center on Commerce Park Blvd. in Tampa Palms. “It’s been pretty steady all day.”
New Tampa’s turnout, which almost always is lower than the average for the rest of Hillsborough County — which has caused many politicians to call local voters “apathetic,” actually outpaced the county’s turnout by a decent margin.
Official results from the supervisor of elections office show that throughout the 347 voting precincts across the county, of the 747,605 registered voters in Hillsborough, 544,530 submitted ballots — either in person or by mail — for a total voting turnout of 72.84 percent. However, New Tampa’s voters came out even higher than the county average, with a turnout of nearly 78 percent in our 12 voting precincts.
Danish Upsets Harrison
One of the biggest changes our area will see following this election is the face that will represent our area in the Florida House of Representatives. After two years serving as the District 60 Representative in the Florida House, Rep. Shawn Harrison (R-New Tampa was beaten in the race for the newly redrawn District 63 by Democratic opponent and fellow New Tampa resident Mark Danish.
Danish won by a narrow margin, earning 50.55 percent of the County’s vote to Rep. Harrison’s 49.45 percent. However, Danish’s won New Tampa’s vote by a somewhat larger margin of 49 percent to Harrison’s 44 percent.
“I’m very humbled by the community’s response,” Danish says. “I attribute the victory to all of the volunteers who helped (me) with this campaign.”
Danish is currently getting settled in Tallahassee while searching for a local office location that, he says, will serve not only as a District office, but also as a communications hub for people in the community to find jobs.
“I wish Mr. Danish well,” says Harrison. “I look forward to his representation in Tallahassee.”
Tallying The Votes
According to the Florida Division of Elections (FDOE) office, President Obama narrowly won the State of Florida by a margin of just 50,000 votes (based on preliminary results), but he won Hillsborough County by a margin of a little more than 32,000 votes over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, grabbing 52-percent of the county’s vote to Romney’s 46 percent. In New Tampa, the President won with 56 percent of the vote to Gov. Romney’s 44 percent.
Joining President Obama in Washington, DC, will again be C.W. “Bill” Nelson (D-Orlando) — who won reelection in the U.S. Senate over Republican opponent Connie Mack with 58-percent of the county’s vote and Gus Bilirakis (R-Palm Harbor), who also won reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives with more than 63 percent of the county’s vote over Democrat Jonathon Snow.
Meanwhile, only three of the eleven proposed amendments to Florida’s constitution received the 60-percent “Yes” votes needed for approval. Those that passed were: Amendment 2 (property tax exemption for wounded veterans), Amendment 9 (property tax exemption for surviving spouses of military members or first responders) and Amendment 11 (property tax exemption for low-income seniors who have held the same residence for 25 years or more).
In the local races, the new Hillsborough County supervisor of elections will be Democrat Craig Latimer, who grabbed 56 percent of the County’s vote and 53 percent of New Tampa’s ballots over Republican Rich Glorioso. After a close race, the newly elected Hillsborough property appraiser will be Democrat Bob Henriquez with 52 percent of the County’s vote and 51 percent of New Tampa’s vote, over Republican opponent Rhonda Storms, who received 43 percent of the County’s vote and only 37 percent in New Tampa. Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, a Republican, ran unopposed and received 97 percent of the County’s vote for reelection against write-in candidates.
Congratulations to all of the winners and everyone that exercised their right to vote!