JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After months of campaigning and the increasing barrage of political commercials, voting begins in Florida's races for governor, U.S. Senate and dozens of other contests.
Early voting for the Aug. 28 Florida Primary begins Monday at 18 sites in Duval County and later in the week in most other counties in Northeast Florida and across the state. (Locations, dates and hours of early voting locations in every county in northeast Florida)
But unless you're paying close attention or you've studied that sample ballot you got in the mail, you may be surprised when you get into the voting booth.
Republicans, unless you've been out of the country or haven't turned on the television since St. Patrick's Day, you know Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam are running for governor. So who are those other six Republicans on your ballot?
Even informed Democrats will likely only have heard of five of the seven candidates on their ballot for governor.
Independents? To choose the next governor (and many other races), you'll have to wait until November, when there will be four NPA and a Reform Party candidate in addition to the winners of the two major party primaries. And don't get us started on the write-in candidates.
Moving on to the U.S. Senate race, it's Rick Scott running against Bill Nelson, right? That's likely true -- in November.
But Nelson's name is nowhere on the August ballot because he drew no Democratic opposition. Scott is on the GOP ballot, running against perennial candidate Rocky De La Fuente, who currently lives in California and is running for Senate in Florida and six other states. (He was also running in California, but lost in the June primary.)
When we get to November, the Republican (probably Scott) and Democrat (definitely Nelson) will appear on the ballot. Five write-in candidates' names will not be on the ballot, but they qualified in the race.
Candidates trying to get your attention through roadside signs and glossy cards in your mailbox aren't those getting attention for the news or buying TV advertising: thoe are races for judge and other local offices.
While judicial campaigns used to be sedate affairs, the prospect of a job on the bench is attractive since, once elected, there are currently no term limits on the job and incumbents rarely draw opposition. (No incumbents are challenged in the three judicial circuits in WJXT's viewing area this year. The circuit judge races on your ballot are for open seats.)
What else is on the ballot?
If you're a Republican or Democrat, you're likely to have a Congressional and/or state Senate or House races on your ballot. If you're an independent, you'll likely only see nonpartisan, local offices like judges and school board on your ballot. If you don't see a school board race, it's because you don't live in a district that's up for election this year.
Nonpartisan races are on the primary ballot so that if no candidate gets more than 50 percent in August, the November General Election serves as a runoff between the two candidates who get the most votes.
In Duval County, a special election for tax collector is being held in conjunction with the primary to fill the seat of Michael Corrigan, who resigned earlier this summer to become executive director of Visit Jacksonville. With four candidates hoping to fill out the last year of Corrigan's term, it's likely the top two will advance to another round in November.
With at least five candidates in each of the three Duval County school board seats on the ballot, those races will also likely be decided with a second vote in the General Election.
Why primary voting matters
In the Florida House 14th District, which includes much of North and Northwest Jacksonville, the only two candidates running are both Democrats, so whoever wins the primary wins the job. For that reason, it's considered a unitary primary, so this Democratic race appears on the primary ballots of all voters, including Republicans and independents.
The 14th District race is also interesting because the incumbent, Kimberly Daniels, drew an opponent from her own party, Paula Wright, the outgoing chairwoman of the Duval County School Board.
There are a few other incumbent lawmakers drawing opponents from within their party, but with opponents waiting in the general election, these remain closed primaries to only party voters. These include:
- U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, of Gainesville, is running for re-election in Florida's 3rd Congressional District against fellow Republican Judson Sapp, of Orange Park. There's also a Democratic primary in this race as three Democrats are competing to be on the ballot in November.
- State Sen. Aaron Bean, of Fernandina Beach, is facing Carlos Slay, of Callahan in the Republican Florida Senate District 4 primary.
- Republican Cord Byrd, of Neptune Beach, is running for re-election in the Florida House 11th District against fellow Republican Joe Zimmerman, of Fernandina Beach.
In assembling our Voter's Guide, we always come across some interesting connections. This year, there are two races that caught our eye.
Joseph Hogan, who is running in the Republican primary for Florida state House District 15, is the son of Mike Hogan, currently Duval County's supervisor of elections and who previously served in Jacksonville City Council and the Florida state House (District 13), then was elected twice as Duval County's tax collector.
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