In St. Pete, a steady trickle at the polls as candidates make their final rounds

Polls close at seven.

click to enlarge Mayor Rick Kriseman makes one last round of personal appeals to voters just hours before polls close Tuesday. - Kate Bradshaw
Kate Bradshaw
Mayor Rick Kriseman makes one last round of personal appeals to voters just hours before polls close Tuesday.

As the 7 p.m. voting deadline loomed, volunteers dialed number after number at St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman's campaign headquarters on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street North.

The aim was to ask the registered voters on the other end of the line if they'd voted yet, if so, for whom and if not, if they could kindly get to the polls before 7 and cast a ballot for Kriseman.

The volunteers — many of whom had supported Hillary Clinton's presidential bid last year — seemed upbeat, though, some said they don't want to go into Election Night with the same optimism they did in 2016 only to have a gargantuan letdown. 

Kriseman, of course, is a Democrat fending off a challenge from former Mayor Rick Baker, a Republican. Mind you, the race is supposed to be nonpartisan, but between Kriseman's efforts to tie Baker to President Trump and Baker's enormous well of Republican cash, it would appear otherwise.

The two are neck and neck, and the most recent round of (publicly released) poll numbers suggests a slight lead for Kriseman.

"I feel good. I think we've done all we can," Kriseman said on Tuesday before he took to the phones to personally call voters. "We talked a lot about the future of the city, a lot about who we want to be, so it's up to the voters to decide what kind of city they want to live in."

Kriseman and his supporters will watch the tally come in at Nova 535 starting at 6:30.

Closer to downtown, a steady stream of voters turned out at the St. Pete Coliseum.

What surprised City Council District 6 candidate Justin Bean, who had been there handing out flyers to voters since 6:45 a.m., was how few people knew that voters citywide could weigh in on all three seats up for a vote.

"It's striking to me, because if you come here not knowing who you're going to vote for and I hand you a pamphlet right before you walk in, chances are you're going to vote for me, but that's not a great reason to vote for me," Bean said. "I think as a city we need to do a better job of informing voters on how our election cycle works."

Bean, who will be hanging out with supporters at the Galley later, said he chose that spot because it's the polling place for five precincts within the city, so it was a good way to catch a broad swath of voters.

Also engaging in some last-minute campaigning outside the Coliseum was City Council District 2 candidate Brandi Gabbard, who said she's also noticed the volume of voters who weren't aware of all the races in which they have a say.

"I think that the turnout's been good," Gabbard said. "We'll see when it comes in, but it feels like a nice, steady trickle and a lot people who maybe didn't realize that they had council races going on, so I think it's been kind of an educational experience for the city."

Gabbard, who had spent the day going between polling places and plans to watch the returns at Noble Crust later, has polled well ahead of her opponent, Barclay Harless — but she said given how many undecided voters there are, she is taking nothing for granted.

"When I look at polls, I look at the undecided number, because that's really something I've really tried hard to run a very aggressive outreach campaign, so I'm constantly looking at that undecided number," she said. "So knowing, going into this, that we still had 30 percent possibly that were undecided, it was important to me to be all over the place and just reach as many people in those last few minutes as possible. And don't take anything for granted."

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