A final breath before the big day
Welcome to the day before the primary, the DMZ of election coverage.
With early voting ending Saturday and Election Day on Tuesday, that gives three days for political writers to twiddle their thumbs.
There was always an unspoken rule about a news cutoff the day or two before Election Day. In the olden days, before the internet, candidates and their supporters would often wait until the weekend before to let us know about some dastardly deed of the opponent.
We stay away from such late-breaking gotcha stories because there isn't enough time for the subject of the story to react.
Here’s how it works. I’d get a phone call, usually from someone I didn’t know, who would say in a very innocent and conspiratorial way, “Hey Mr. Wright, did you know Candidate XYZ was arrested for shoplifting?”
“Wow,” I’d respond. “When was that?”
Yeah, not going to break a sweat on that.
But if the answer to my question is “yesterday,” that’s a different situation.
Even so, it had to be really, really important to get our attention enough to publish a story in the day or two before the election.
So my plan here is write a little about the primary without upsetting any apple carts, got it?
— Early voting ended Saturday, as I mentioned, and the data is interesting.
As of Sunday, voter turnout is 18.7%. If early votes/vote by mail usually count for at least half the overall turnout, I’d say that number is average but not great for a primary.
Here’s the interesting part: Headed into Primary Election Day, Democrats have a higher turnout than Republicans. Of the total number of registered Democrats, 27% have voted. For Republicans, it’s 19.8%.
The Democratic percentage turnout is about normal for Citrus County primaries. The Republican number is WAY below.
Here’s the Citrus County Republican voter turnout in the last four primary elections: 2014, 37%; 2016, 47%; 2018, 47%; 2020, 45%.
For Republicans to come close to those numbers, they’ll need to show up Tuesday at the polls.
—One challenge to the news cutoff is that candidate collection and spending reports from the campaign’s final two weeks were due Friday.
Here are the county commission candidates, the total amount collected (including loans) and the amount spent:
A lot of that spending came in the last two weeks. Each candidate spent at least $5,000 on last-minute advertising and mail pieces; Worthington, $25,948; Murphy, $22,018.
—Finally, I want to say thanks to all the candidates. We really did luck out this year. All 14 local candidates — five county commission, four school board, two judicial and three state representative — showed plenty of resolve, grit and determination over the last several months.
I realize we have differences — that’s what voters are for — but at the end of the day we’re all Citrus County residents trying to do our best.
It isn’t easy at all to run for office. It takes enormous discipline and sacrifice. People don’t have a clue until they try it themselves.
You can honor that effort by voting. It’s all they ask.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.