Axios Tampa Bay

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Today is Tuesday β€” your last chance to vote in the state's 2022 primary election. More on that below.

β›ˆ Isolated showers and thunderstorms until 2pm, then rain chances increase. Could accumulate a quarter-inch or more in spots. 94/77.

Today's newsletter is 937 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Local races to watch

Illustration: Victoria Ellis/Axios

Don't get stumped when you hit the polls today.

What's happening: Although most of the media attention is on whether Charlie Crist or Nikki Fried will face incumbent Ron DeSantis in the gubernatorial race in November, there's more to vote for.

Here are the races we're watching:

Republicans for Congressional District 15: Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee is ahead in the polls. Her biggest competitor for a seat in the district, covering parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties, is Sen. Kelli Stargel, whose daughter earlier this year called her the "worst mom ever," on TikTok.

Hillsborough County School Board: In Districts 2 and 6, battling endorsements from DeSantis and the Florida Democratic Party are shaping the nonpartisan race.

  • The Hillsborough County Democratic Party gave $10,000 to Damaris Allen, who was endorsed by state Democrats this week in her District 2 race against DeSantis-backed Stacy Hahn.
  • In District 6, Karen Perez got $1,000 from a political committee tied to the Florida Education Association, the state's largest teachers union. DeSantis endorsed her opponent, Aly Legge.

Keep reading

2. Few Polk parents opt out

Illustration of a book as the bottom of a padlock.

Illustration: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

Only a small number of Polk County Public Schools parents have elected to bar their kids from reading books that a conservative group has labeled pornographic and inappropriate.

Driving the news: Parents had a window of opportunity in August to alert the district that they didn't want their student to have access to 16 library books that a group called County Citizens Defending Freedom demanded be removed from schools.

  • Those books β€” which include titles such as "Beloved," by Toni Morrison, and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," by Jonathan Safran Foer β€” were pulled from shelves in January and reviewed by two committees in the spring.
  • The committees recommended that all titles stay on shelves, with some age restrictions.

The latest: Polk superintendent Frederick Heid announced a new "opt-out" policy in late July under which parents could, via online forms, allow or prohibit their children from checking any of the 16 books out of the library. But a district spokesman tells Axios that just 43 families elected to keep kids from seeing some or all of the books.

  • That's just .043% of the roughly 100,000 students enrolled in Polk County schools.

Yes, but: Critics claim the district's policy is insufficient.

What they're saying: "The backtracking is unfortunate and we're going to be filing police reports against the board, the superintendent and anyone that is distributing the material in question because it violates the law and state statutes," a resident named Robert Goodman told the school board, per Lkldnow.com.

3. The Pulp: And we rind up, high like the waves

Illustration of an orange with sunglasses on a teal background.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

πŸš” Four more former and current Bradenton Police Department officers have filed complaints accusing Chief Melanie Bevan of misconduct. Bevan argues that the criticism has heated up relative to labor contract negotiations. (Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

🎣 Veteran charter captains say snapper are swarming in Tampa Bay right now. (Bradenton Herald)

πŸŽ₯ Martin Hyde, a Sarasota candidate for Congress, says in a YouTube video, which has since been taken down, that he would have killed the FBI agents who searched former President Trump's property if they tried to do the same thing to his home. (Florida Politics)

Quote du jour:
"And the one thing I do fear is when I'm playing devil's advocate, and getting my students to fully understand all sides of an issue β€” if someone is now offended, whether they be liberal or conservative, are they going to come and try to sue me?"
β€” Derek Reich, a Sarasota High School teacher who's running for a state House seat in Sarasota's District 73 as a Democrat, to WUSF.

4. Art spotlight: New murals at Water Street Tampa

A photo of a mural of a whale on a parking garage.

A whale mural from Italian artist Alessandro Etsom on Asher Water Street. Photo: Courtesy of Aaron Lipkin

🎨 Italian artist Alessandro Etsom was in town last week to work on three parking garage murals at Asher, a residential building at Water Street Tampa.

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5. Unmasking Brady's break

tom brady throwing a football side by side with gronk on masked singer

Tom Brady in his helmet and Rob Gronkowski unmasked. Photos: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire and Fox, via Getty Images

Selene here. We usually don't give fodder to internet conspiracy theories, but I dove into a rabbit hole this weekend too deep not to mention.

What's happening: Tom Brady nonchalantly returned to Bucs practice yesterday after his mysterious 11-day break for "personal reasons."

Yes, but: That doesn't rule out the theory I can't stop thinking about β€” that Brady could have been filming as a contestant on "The Masked Singer."

  • A Reddit user pointed out that Brady's absence lined up with the show's filming dates, and that participation in the show could have been included in his multi-million dollar deal with Fox.
  • NFL analyst Lindsey Yok points out that he could have signed "The Masked Singer" deal in his 40 days between retiring and un-retiring.
  • Vulture notes that two of Brady's former teammates, Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown, have competed on the show, as have Fox NFL commentators Joe Buck and Terry Bradshaw.

Not convinced yet? Bear with me:

  • Boomers love "The Masked Singer," and you know who boomers also love? Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field β€” aka the stars of Brady's upcoming movie.
  • An NFL reporter said Brady looked "miserable" at training camp before leaving, which could have very well been him dreading putting on a mascot suit to sing a rendition of Queen's "We Are the Champions" for Ken Jeong.
  • One of this season's costumed contestants is a robot. Guess who's been rumored to be a robot? Our boy, Tom.

🎬 Selene is a TikTok star.

🎣 Ben is reading this beautiful story about an unlikely rescue in Maine's Kennebec Gorge.

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