Pinellas has a reputation as a decisive county
On Tuesday, when America goes back to the polls for the 2018 midterm elections, the political pundits of the country will circle a few places and focus on them as particularly interesting. These are the battleground states, of which Florida is one. Within these battleground states are the specific counties that, for whatever reason, weigh particularly heavily into the decision.
When anchors and opinion leaders alike mention these specific hotbeds, it is almost a certainty that Pinellas County right here in Florida will be among them. As one of America’s most evenly-divided places politically, Pinellas has developed a political reputation. The county is a leading indicator, a sign of where the entire nation might be leaning at any given time.
In state elections, Pinellas is one of the critical battlegrounds that needs to be won in order to take the Governor’s mansion or any other statewide seat. The decision of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and the surrounding area will go a long way in choosing the state’s next governor, and deciding whether the state is to see a change in their US Senate representation.
Nationally, Pinellas is known as one of the counties that does the most to choose presidents. If the state is in fact a “swing state” nationally, helping tip the balance of power between Republicans and Democrats, Pinellas is the county that swings the balance more than any other. Generally, the candidate the county prefers in a presidential election wins. President Trump saw narrow gains in Pinellas in 2016, and it helped him take the critical electoral votes in Florida.
It is little wonder, then, that the candidates in statewide races have put a particular focus on winning over the west side of Tampa Bay. Both Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis have made trips to the county and frequent appearances within the local media, including Ron DeSantis joining our own Chris Ingram of AM 820 News on multiple occasions.
Some voters find themselves discouraged from heading to the polls because they feel that their vote does not really count for much. In Pinellas County, it is obvious that every vote counts. With such a close margin between Democrat and Republican candidates, every vote is critical.
The 2018 midterm election will not just be a series of important decisions about Florida’s governor, representation in the US Senate, and the composition of the State Legislature. Along with all of that, the election will be seen largely as a referendum on the direction of the country as a whole.
While Gillum and DeSantis have their own platforms and agendas often removed from the common goals of their respective national parties, their alignment with specific national figures will make the gubernatorial race look to outsiders like a question of the president’s popularity. It is that endorsement that propelled Ron DeSantis to the Republican nomination, after all. Meanwhile, Andrew Gillum’s connection to the more progressive wing of the Democratic party, in particuar Bernie Sanders, turns the Tallahassee mayor into a test of how willing America is to truly elect somebody that far left of center.
In short, to many outside of Florida, the gubernatorial election will be billed as “Trump vs Bernie.” That is of course a less-than-accurate way to paint the picture, but the national implications of such a race will certainly put the battleground counties of the state under the magnifying glass once again.
The election for United States Senate will also put a spotlight on Pinellas County. With an outgoing governor in the mix with a respected and long-standing member of the Senate, political legacies will be bandied about.
A Nelson victory could be construed, potentially, as a win for a political establishment that has been under fierce attack within both parties for several years now. In that regard, the senator could buck a trend of voters throwing out long-serving politicians in favor of a new, more aggressive brand of political leader.
Scott winning, however, would cast some doubt on the expected “blue wave” of Democratic victories that those left of center hope provide further checks on the power of the Trump administration. Upsetting Nelson would add to the growing list of evidence that politics as we know them are changing before our eyes.
However Florida votes on Tuesday, be aware that special attention will be paid to Pinellas. We at News Talk Florida urge you to get out on Tuesday and make your voice heard by voting. Pinellas County residents can find your voting precinct here.