MANATEE — The campaigning will continue for two more weeks, but some Manatee County voters already have made their decisions in the general election.
Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat said more than 600 county voters cast their ballots by 3 p.m. Monday, the first day of the early-voting period in Florida. He expected about 750 ballots by the end of the day.
That’s a marked increase over the August primary during which about 200 early voters visited Sweat’s office each day.
“It’s been a steady stream all day,” Sweat said. “It’s exactly what I expected. It’s been comfortable for the voters. I’m glad it’s been wall-to-wall and not line-to-line.”
Early voting will continue through Oct. 31 at the supervisor of elections office leading to the Nov. 2 general election.
Sweat said the general election — which features races for U.S. Senate, governor, two county commission seats and a school board seat along with the contentious Amendment 4 — should attract a turnout of between 55 and 65 percent of Manatee County’s 202,890 registered voters.
The supervisor of elections office has received between 6,000 and 7,000 absentee ballots as well, Sweat said.
The elections office also released the latest campaign finance reports for county races Monday.
As expected, the Republican candidates in the county commission races extended their huge spending leads over their Democratic counterparts.
In the District 4 race, Republican Robin DiSabatino spent $12,013.56 during the period from Sept. 25 to Oct. 8. That’s more than three times as much as Democrat Roger Galle ($3,950.16) has spent on his entire campaign.
Almost half of DiSabatino’s recent spending, $5,793.48, went to Political Ink, a direct-mail company out of Alexandria, Va. Overall, DiSabatino has spent $107,445.99 on the primary and general election. Galle was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
In the countywide District 6 race, incumbent Carol Whitmore, the Republican, spent $16,060.36 during the most recent two-week period, almost nine times what Democrat Sundae Knight ($1,792.54) has spent on her entire campaign.
Unfortunately for Whitmore, $2,500 of her expenditures came from donation refunds she didn’t have to make. Whitmore made five refunds of $500 each to donors who had supported her in the primary as well as the general election. The maximum donation is $500.
“Since I didn’t have an opponent in my primary, I was told by my CPA (certified public accountant) that I couldn’t take duplicate donations after the primary. That was wrong,” Whitmore said after checking with Sweat’s office.
Whitmore also spent a considerable amount, $11,261.57, with Political Ink since Sept. 25.
She has spent $65,813.88 to date.
Timothy R. Wolfrum, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 745-7015.