Pinellas County’s voters took on a four-page ballot in the Nov. 6 general election, in part due to 11 referendum questions from the state of Florida.
According to unofficial results posted on the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website, Pinellas County voters agreed with their counterparts around the state saying yes to only three of the 11 constitutional amendments. The count does not include 9,500 mail ballots or provisional ballots. Elections staff is scheduled to resume counting at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Voters said yes to amendments granting additional homestead exemptions. Voters said yes to amendment No. 2, which would add a provision to the constitution allowing an additional property tax exemption to veterans disabled due to combat.
Voters said yes to amendment No. 9 that allows an additional homestead exemption for surviving spouses of military veterans or first responders. State law currently allows the exemption; however, it is not part of the constitution.
Voters also said yes to amendment No. 11, which provides for an additional homestead exemption for low-income seniors, age 65 and older, who maintain long-term residency on property, at least 25 years, with a just value of less than $250,000.
However, the answer was no to Amendment No. 1 to change the constitution to make it unlawful to compel “any person or employer to purchase, obtain, or otherwise provide for health care coverage, or purchase lawful health care services from a lawful provider …,” which proponents said would essentially block implementation of federal health care reform.
Amendment No. 3 got a negative response, as voters rejected a constitutional change that would replace the existing limitation on state revenue based on Florida personal income growth with a new limitation based on inflation and population changes.
Voters also said no to amendment No. 4, which dealt with property tax limitations, property value decline, reduction for nonhomesteaded assessment increases and a delay of scheduled repeal.
The majority said no to amendment No. 5, which would have revised the state’s constitution to authorize the State Supreme Court to “adopt rules for the practice and procedure in all courts.” It would have eliminated the requirement of a 2/3 vote in the legislature to repeal a court rule, allowing the repeal to be made by a simple majority. The amendment also called for legislative confirmation of appointments of Supreme Court Justices, among other changes.
Voters said no to amendment No. 6, which would have made the state’s rules on abortion part of the constitution and continued the prohibition on spending of any public money on abortions or for health-benefits coverage that includes abortions.
Another no vote came for amendment No. 8, which dealt with religious freedom. Voter approval would have allowed deletion of the constitutional prohibition “against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”
Voters said no to amendment No. 10 to increase the exemption for tangible personal property, and they said no to amendment No. 12 asks voters to approve amendment the state constitution to replace the current method of selecting the president of the Florida Student Association.
State Senate races
Due to redistricting, Pinellas County’s state Senate seats were up for grabs, including districts 20 and 22.
Florida Sen. Jack Latvala, representing the Republicans, was in the lead with 58 percent of the vote for the newly drawn District 20 seat against Democrat and political-newcomer Ashley M. Rhodes-Courter.
Latvala has represented District 16 in the Senate for the past two years, but due to redistricting, the senator now lives in District 20, which includes northern Pinellas south to the northern city limits of St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park and Seminole. Latvala first-represented Pinellas in the Florida Senate between 1994 and 2002, before leaving due to term limits.
Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes took 93 percent of the vote against write-in candidate Raymond Baker for the state senate District 22 position. Brandes has represented District 52 since 2010 and defeated longtime state Representative Jim Frische in the Aug. 14 primary. District 22 includes parts of south Pinellas and portions of south Tampa.
House of Representatives
State House positions were on the ballot for districts 65, 66, 67, 68 and 69.
Democrat Carl “Z” Zimmerman had a slight lead with nearly 53 percent of the vote over incumbent Republican Rep. Peter Nehr for the District 65 seat in the Florida House of Representatives. Nehr has served in the house since 2006 representing District 48. Zimmerman, a teacher, unsuccessfully opposed Nehr in the 2008 election.
Republican Rep. Larry Ahern was leading Democrat Mary Louise Ambrose with 53 percent of the vote for the District 66 seat in the House of Representatives. Ahern has served as a state representative since 2010, representing District 51.
Republican Rep. Ed Hooper received nearly 53 percent in the race against Democrat Ben Farrell for the District 67 seat. Hooper has served as a state representative since 2006 filling the District 50 seat.
Three people campaigned for the District 68 position, including Republican and former Rep. Frank Farkas, Democrat Dwight Dudley and independent Matthew D. Weldner. Dudley was ahead in the unofficial results with nearly 51 percent of the vote to Farkas with 44 percent. Farkas served in the state House from 1998 to 2006. The District 68 seat came open when Brandes decided to run for a Senate seat.
Republican and South Pasadena Mayor Kathleen Peters was leading the way with 52 percent of the vote against political newcomer Democrat Josh Shulman for the District 69 seat in the House. District 69 includes parts of former districts 51, 53 and 54.