By Matt Wiley

After months of campaigning and billions of dollars spent on political advertising, the nation’s votes are in and, of course, U.S. President Barack Obama has won reelection. The races for positions in local Pasco County government also have been decided.

Despite early rain showers and a large volume of early voting and absentee ballot participation, long lines still formed at voting precincts across the Wesley Chapel area early on November 6 for the 2012 general election, which helped decide not only who would become the next U.S. President, but also who would represent the Wesley Chapel area in the U.S. Congress, and several local government positions.

“At 7 a.m., the line was out the door,” said James R. Estel, polling deputy at Precinct 101, located at the Meadow Pointe II Clubhouse on County Line Rd. “It was really busy early in the morning and stayed steady during the day, although there wasn’t really a line. People are happy when you tell them they are the line.”

Estel says he has worked as a polling deputy for the past two presidential elections and noted that this year’s Election Day turnout was smaller, but adds that he thinks it had to do with the large amount of early voting and the 11 amendments on the ballot.

According to the Florida Division of Elections (FDOE) office, only three proposed amendments to Florida’s constitution received the 60 percent needed to pass: Amendment 2 (property tax exemption for wounded veterans), Amendment 9 (property tax exemption for surviving spouses of military members and first responders) and Amendment 11 (property tax exemption for low-income seniors who have held the same residence for 25 years or more).

Also on the Pasco County ballot was the option to approve the proposed 10-year renewal of the Penny for Pasco, a one-cent sales tax for Pasco County, which was set to expire at the end of 2014. The tax has already brought major improvement to the county and will instead continue to bring positive change until the end of 2024, after securing nearly 70 percent of the ballots cast countywide.

Official results by precinct were not available at our press time; however, unofficial results from the Pasco County supervisor of elections office show that throughout the 110 voting precincts across the county, of the 310,322 registered voters in the county, 214,685 submitted ballots — either in person or by mail — for a total voting turnout of 69.18 percent, a little more than a 4-percent drop from the 73.7 percent turnout in 2008.

Although President Obama may have narrowly won the State of Florida by a margin of only about 50,000 votes (although those results were still not “official” at our press time), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won Pasco County with more than 52 percent of the vote to the President’s 45 percent.

Joining President Obama in Washington D.C. will be C.W. “Bill” Nelson (D-Orlando) — who won reelection in the U.S. Senate over Republican opponent Connie Mack IV, with 52 percent of the county’s vote and 55 percent overall — and Gus Bilirakis (R-Palm Harbor), who also won reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives with 62 percent of the vote in Pasco and 63.5 percent of the state vote over Democratic opponent Jonathon Snow.

In the local races, Republican Paula O’Neil secured another term as Pasco’s Clerk of the Circuit Court with an overwhelming 75 percent of the vote over non-partisan opponent Roberta Cutting. Pasco also reelected Sheriff Chris Nocco, who earned 65 percent of the vote over Democratic opponent Kim Bogart, who received only 34.9 percent of the ballots cast.

Mike Wells will once again be Pasco’s property appraiser, after winning reelection over Democratic opponent Allison Newlon with 67 percent of the vote, while Democrat Mike Olson will reprise his role as Pasco’s tax collector, beating out Republican Ed Blommel with 68 percent of the vote.

Republican Kathryn Starkey will take the place of retiring District 3 Commissioner Ann Hildebrand on the Pasco Board of County Commissioners after winning 58.6 percent of the vote over Democratic opponent Matt Murphy, who earned only 41.4 percent of the County’s vote.

Congratulations to all of the winners and be sure to check out for the official results by precinct, which should be available by the time you receive this issue.

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