Oct 25, 2022 - Politics

Midterm elections 2022: Voting in Tampa Bay

Illustration of a white podium changing into a voting booth and then changing into three campaign signs, over a divided red and blue background.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Election Day is Nov. 8. Here's everything you need to know about key dates and what's on your ballot in Tampa Bay.

Why it matters: Voter turnout is typically lower when a presidential election is not on the ballot, but your vote can decide everything from how much you pay in local taxes to who will represent you in the U.S. Senate and House.

Voting in the 2022 midterm elections

Early voting: Early voting locations may be different from where you vote on Election Day. Check local elections supervisors for locations in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Hernando, Manatee, Sarasota and Citrus counties.

  • Or vote from home using a mail-in ballot. The last day to request one is Oct. 29 by 5pm. Submit a mail-in ballot request by mail, in person or by phone to your local election office.
  • If you're voting by mail, your ballot must be received by 7pm on Election Day.
  • If you vote on Election Day, you need to go to your assigned polling place.

Remember: Bring your valid photo ID with signature to vote in person, whether for early voting or on Election Day.

Florida governor: Charlie Crist (D) vs. Ron DeSantis (R)

Photo illustration of Charlie Crist, tinted blue, and Ron DeSantis, tinted red, separated by a white halftone divider.
Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Thomas Wheelock/Bloomberg via Getty Images and Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist seeks to unseat Ron DeSantis in the Florida governor's race.

State of play: Democrats have been largely unsuccessful in Florida elections over the last several years. It's been an uphill battle for Crist, a former governor whose "justice for all" platform is a departure from his conservative political roots.

  • Recent polling suggests voters are leaning toward DeSantis' confrontational and headline-grabbing style, and the governor is swamping the state's airwaves in TV ads.
  • The incumbent also has a massive campaign cash advantage, with more than $100 million on hand as of Oct. 7, CBS Miami reports. Crist had nearly $3 million in cash on hand.

Background: Crist, 66, supports abortion rights and LGBTQ protections, including access to gender-affirming health care. The DeSantis administration has prohibited transgender residents from using Medicaid to cover gender-affirming care.

  • Crist has also promised to repeal DeSantis' Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed by critics the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
  • Crist's agenda also includes requiring universal background checks for gun buyers and banning the sale of assault weapons. Meanwhile, DeSantis, 44, is pushing for a state law allowing residents to carry concealed guns without permits.
  • DeSantis, a rumored 2024 presidential candidate, seeks to cast himself as a leader of the conservative movement, Axios' Erin Doherty reports. In his final weeks before the November election, DeSantis is managing Hurricane Ian recovery efforts and lawsuits over the flights of some 50 migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, for which he has claimed responsibility.

Go deeper:

U.S. Senate: Val Demings (D) vs. Marco Rubio (R)

Photo illustration of Val Demings, tinted blue, and Marco Rubio, tinted red, separated by a white halftone divider.
Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images and Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio faces Democratic Rep. Val Demings in Florida's nationally watched U.S. Senate race.

The big picture: The race will help decide whether Republicans can take control of the Senate, where there's a 50-50 partisan split, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaker favoring Democrats.

Background: Rubio, a Miami Republican, was first elected in 2010 and won re-election in 2016 after losing the GOP presidential primary to Donald Trump.

  • Demings, who was born in Jacksonville, is in her third term in Congress. If elected, Demings would be Florida's first Black U.S. senator.

Catch up quick: Rubio has cast Demings as a far-left politician who wants to defund the police, while Demings — the former Orlando police chief — has slammed Rubio's hardline abortion position.

  • Rubio has led Demings in polls despite Demings' edge in campaign contributions.

Go deeper:

Florida attorney general: Aramis Ayala (D) vs. Ashley Moody (R)

Photo illustration of Aramis Ayala, tinted blue, and Ashley Moody, tinted red, divided by a halftone line
Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Sarah Espedido/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service, Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Republican incumbent Ashley Moody is seeking re-election as Florida's attorney general over Democratic challenger and former Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

The big picture: The attorney general is Florida's chief legal officer — a position that defends the state in civil litigation cases, issues formal legal opinions on state law and sits on Florida's Clemency Board, among other duties.

Background: Moody, a former Hillsborough County judge, was elected attorney general in 2018 and has the backing of DeSantis and Trump.

  • Ayala served as state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, where she sparked controversy after announcing her office would no longer seek the death penalty.

Catch up quick: Moody has dismissed the idea of debating Ayala, criticizing her as an unserious candidate who won't work with law enforcement.

Go deeper, via the Miami Herald:

Florida agriculture commissioner: Naomi Blemur (D) vs. Wilton Simpson (R)

Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson and North Miami Democrat Naomi Blemur are vying for the state agriculture commissioner seat being vacated by Nikki Fried after her failed bid for governor.

Background: Simpson, a Republican egg farmer endorsed by DeSantis and Trump, has out-fundraised Blemur and has more cash on hand ($1.6 million compared with Blemur's $3,000, as of late September), the Florida Times-Union reports.

  • Simpson has helped DeSantis pass some of his major priorities, including the governor's 15-week abortion ban.
  • He's promised to protect the Second Amendment and to ensure residents can get concealed carry licenses, which the state Agriculture Department oversees, as quickly as possible, the Times-Union and the Tampa Bay Times report.

The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Blemur is a community leader, a pastor and the owner of a business consulting firm.

  • She says on her campaign website that she'll ensure concealed carry licenses are "thoroughly vetted." Her agenda also includes ensuring public school students have nutritious meals and equitable access to the state's hemp industry.
  • Blemur lost support from some Democrats in August following backlash over past anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ social media comments, Florida Politics reports. She responded in a statement saying she supports abortion rights, is "an LGTBQIA+ ally and ... will remain one."

Florida's Supreme Court justices

Florida voters will decide whether to retain five of seven justices on the Florida Supreme Court.

  • Justices are appointed by the governor, but voters get to decide whether to keep them. Such votes are conducted in the first general election that occurs more than a year after a justice's appointment, and then every six years.
  • The justices are facing a little more pushback than usual, but there's little doubt they will keep their seats on the bench.

Of note: In a survey of lawyers, 85% favored retention of Justice Jorge Labarga, 74%  for Ricky Polston, 73% for Chief Justice Charles Canady, 63% for Justice John Couriel and 59% for Justice Jamie Grosshans, per the Tallahassee Democrat.

Go deeper, via the Tampa Bay Times:

Three ballot questions

Illustration of a pattern of checkmarks that turn into question marks and vice versa, over a red and blue background with a pattern of ballot elements.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Florida voters have three constitutional amendments to consider:

  • Amendment 1 aims to incentivize homeowners to stormproof their homes by preventing properties' assessed values from going up due to flood-related improvements.
  • Amendment 2 would do away with the Constitution Revision Commission, formed in 1968 to refer constitutional changes directly for a public vote while bypassing the typical amendment process.
  • Amendment 3 would increase the homestead exemption for teachers, police officers, correctional officers, firefighters, emergency-medical technicians, paramedics, child-welfare services professionals, and active-duty members of the military and Florida National Guard.

More key local races

Congressional District 13: It's going to be a tight race for the seat Crist vacated to run for governor. Eric Lynn (D) and Anna Paulina Luna (R) were virtually tied in polls this month.

State Rep. District 62: The newly drawn seat represents southern St. Petersburg and the east Hillsborough County areas of East Tampa, Gibsonton and Riverview.

  • Michele Rayner (D), is seeking a second term in the Legislature after two years of serving District 70. The civil rights attorney initially filed to run for Florida's 13th Congressional District but pulled out of that race after the redrawn district split St. Petersburg.
  • Jeremy Michael Brown (R), a retired Green Beret, has been running his campaign from the Pinellas County Jail, where he awaits trial for eight felony charges related to the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.

Congressional District 15: Another redrawn seat now covers parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties.

  • Former Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee defeated a stacked Republican primary ticket, to face Democrat Alan Cohn, a former investigative journalist at ABC 7 News in Sarasota.
  • After an intense debate last week, Lee denied investing in Chinese-owned companies but recently reported federal financial disclosures now prove otherwise.

Senate District 14: Democrat Sen. Janet Cruz beat the incumbent in her Hillsborough County seat by just 411 votes in 2018, per the Tampa Bay Times.

  • Now, it'll be another close race as Cruz attempts to fend off DeSantis-endorsed Jay Collins, another Green Beret veteran Republican.

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