Voters across Florida head to the polls Tuesday to put the finishing touch on a marathon statewide primary election that began more than a month ago.
After enduring an onslaught of TV ads, mail and phone calls, voters will help choose six members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and scores of county officeholders.
They also will nominate candidates for U.S. Senate and decide a ballot proposal to add a property tax break for solar energy equipment to the state Constitution.
Total turnout, while steady, has been slow but is expected to surpass turnout in the past four statewide primaries.
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Through Sunday, the 14th and final day of early voting, 1.7 million voters had cast ballots, two-thirds of them by mail and the rest at early voting centers.
In the last primary in a presidential election year, in 2012, the turnout was 2.3 million.
The race that has attracted the most statewide interest features primaries in both parties for U.S. Senate, with polls showing Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy heavily favored to defeat challengers, setting up a highly competitive race in November that will help decide whether Republicans retain control of the Senate.
Republican Jeanne Coffin, 55, of St. Petersburg, said she voted for businessman Carlos Beruff, who’s challenging U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s bid for a second term.
“I like Marco Rubio. I like how he speaks. I like his appearance. But I don’t like that he didn’t show up for his job,” Coffin said.
Denise Rodgers, 46, a nurse from St. Petersburg, supported Rubio over Beruff.
“I was torn between the two, but I kind of like his immigration policy,” she said.
Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county, reported the highest number of early voters and ranked second to Pinellas in votes cast by mail.
Anthony Stiso, 57, of Miami Beach, voted early. He said he heeded Gov. Rick Scott’s advice to vote because of potentially stormy weather Tuesday.
“A storm is coming. That helped get me out,” said Stiso, who voted at a library and appreciated not having to wait in line.
“It’s just so easy to walk right over,” he said.
Forecasts show a threat of rain across the peninsula on election day.
Stiso, a Democrat, said he’ll be glad when the primary is over.
“I got more negative postcards than positive,” he said. “I’m kind of turned off to the negative slant.”
Other voters were exasperated by a daily barrage of mail pitches.
In a hard-fought four-person Democratic primary for a Tampa Bay Senate seat, Robert King of Gulfport complained about the constant flow of mail from St. Petersburg personal injury lawyer Augie Ribeiro.
“Every day I was getting this color advertisement from him that must have cost millions of dollars,” said King, who cast his vote for former Rep. Betty Reed of Tampa.
“I just voted for her because she’s a woman,” King said. “I think that overall, women tend to be better at governance than men, to tell you the truth.”
Jacksonville’s Duval County had the second-highest number of early voters.
A steady stream of cars poured into a regional library Sunday as voters rendered their verdict on U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, who is seeking a 13th term while under indictment for 24 felony counts of mail fraud and wire fraud.
“I think she’s doing OK,” said Reginald Lucas, a retired Jacksonville high school teacher. “I don’t have a heaven or hell to put anybody in. You can’t judge somebody guilty without due process.”
The five counties with the most mail ballots are Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Lee, Hillsborough and Broward.
The five counties with the most early voters are Miami-Dade, Duval, Broward, Palm Beach and Orange.
Tampa Bay Times staff writer Jack Suntrup and Miami Herald reporter Alex Daugherty contributed to this report.
Contact Steve Bousquet at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @stevebousquet.