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Date of Issue: January 23, 2008

Florida to hold election primary Jan. 29

“Change” seems to be the buzz word for January.

“That’s what I’m looking for,” Hal Stark said last week, as he committed his vote in Florida’s Jan. 29 presidential preference primary to John Edwards.

But many other voters expressing a desire for change named other candidates seeking to relocate to the White House.

“Change is good, definitely. Tell me a candidate who is more for change than Ron Paul,” Islander William Hinton said, endorsing the Republican congressman nicknamed “Dr. No.”

Florida’s Republican primary ballot includes a “vote for one” choice of Paul, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Duncan Hunter, Alan Keyes, Tom Tancredo or Fred Thompson.

The state’s Democratic primary ballot includes a “vote for one” choice of Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Christopher J. Dodd, Mike Gravel, Dennis J. Kucinich or William “Bill” Richardson. Biden and Dodd have dropped out of the race, but their names remain on the Florida ballot.

Last week, in the days after Romney secured his first primary win in Michigan and the candidates readied their guns for South Carolina’s matchups, The Islander conducted an informal survey on presidential preferences.

The survey found enthusiastic support for each candidate, but the frontrunners were Clinton, Edwards and Obama among Democrats and McCain, Romney and Huckabee among Republicans.

Regional differences, however, proved a factor. Voters who described themselves as native Floridians named Southerners - Thompson, Huckabee and Edwards - more frequently than other voters. Voters with northern backgrounds seemed to favor Clinton, Obama and Giuliani.

“You can take the New Yorker out of New York, but I’m still for Rudy all the way,” said Islander Christian Pate.

And the overwhelming number of people surveyed said they were undecided - 73 percent.

Among local officials, many surveyed said they will vote in the GOP primary.

Florida state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, supports McCain. Giuliani has the support of Florida state Rep. Ron Reagan, along with former Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells.

Holmes Beach City Commissioner Pat Geyer votes Democratic and supports Clinton. “I just think she’s the best qualified,” Geyer said.

Holmes Beach City Commissioner David Zaccagnino also was leaning toward Clinton - “because I think that she could hit the ground running faster than the others on healthcare, foreign policy and economic issues. Plus, you get a two-fer with Bill.”

A number of officials were not certain of their choice, or not saying. Florida state Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has not indicated his preference. Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger remained undecided last week. “I’ve been distracted by other things,” said the mayor, whose post, as with other municipal offices on the Island, is nonpartisan.

Bradenton Beach City Commissioners Janie Robertson and John Shaughnessy also went into the undecided column.

“I think the primary is more important than the general,” Shaughnessy said of the decision he faces.

Robertson is a registered Republican and Shaughnessy a registered Democrat, but both said they tend to vote independent of parties. Thus, Robertson said she plans to vote in the GOP primary, but when the general election comes around, her presidential candidate might be on the Democratic ticket.

Early voting in the primary began Jan. 14 and was to continue through Jan. 26 at the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office, 321 15th St. W., Bradenton. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Florida law requires voters to present identification with a signature and photo.

Absentee balloting also is under way, with applications for an absentee ballot at www.votemanatee.com/absent_reqform.asp. Absentee ballots must be filed by election day.

For voters waiting until Tuesday, Jan. 29, polling hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Anna Maria’s voters will go to Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive. Holmes Beach voters should check their registration card to determine whether they vote at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, or St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive. Bradenton Beach voters will cast ballots at Tingley Memorial Library, 111 Second St. N., Bradenton Beach.

Also on the ballot is Amendment 1, a proposed constitutional amendment regarding property taxes. (See related articles this issue.)

For more information about voting, visit www.votemanatee.com or call 941-741-3823.

Look for local voting results online at www.islander.org.

Islander reporter Rick Catlin contributed to this report.

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