Tensions High on Election Day



Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, made his last campaign stop in Florida in Sarasota on Monday, just days after Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine came to town to whip up support among the party faithful. Election year emotions have gripped the Gulf Coast along with the nation in recent weeks. Now, political leaders have only today left to rally voters to polls.

Sarasota proved especially important to Trump this year, as Republican Party of Sarasota chairman Joe Gruters served as the candidate’s Florida campaign co-chair. At Robarts Arena on Monday, Trump delivered a message carefully tailored for Florida voters, promoting job creation on the Space Coast and Florida military bases while stressing his own roots here. “Florida, my second home, a state I love so much,” Trump told supporters, reminding them he lives part-time in Palm Beach. “By the way, once this is over, Hillary [Clinton] will never come back to Florida.” 

Democratic nominee Clinton has also fought hard for Florida support but not in Sarasota. Kaine, however, spoke to supporters at a Sarasota event on Saturday night, where he stressed the significance of victory in the Sunshine State. “If you win it in Florida, it’s won. I’m not joking,” Kaine said. “If Hillary wins it, it’s over. That’s cool. You don’t have to wake up and see what’s up in Ohio or Nevada. Who wants to wait ’til Mountain Time?”

Trump may not be back in the state until the election is over, but Gruters remains hard at work today getting out the vote. Volunteers have been phone-banking in a half dozen offices in the county, and Gruters says a network of drivers will be available today to help anyone get to the polls who needs assistance. “We’re doing everything we can. It’s an organization unlike anything else we’ve done in Sarasota,” he says.

Elsewhere in town, Sarasota Democratic Party Chairwoman Christine Jennings was at Democratic headquarters with more volunteers than the building could hold. She had 20 people phone-banking inside and another 30 outdoors placing calls to voters. “It’s all parties can do at the end,” she says. “We knock on doors and we place phone calls.” She spent much of the afternoon in North Port rapping on doors of possible supporters who have yet to vote.

Both Gruters and Jennings feel confident their candidate can win Florida’s 29 electoral votes, a key part of any national campaign hoping to pull together the 270 votes needed to win the White House. But both also stressed the need to get out the vote for local races from the Florida Legislature to the hospital board. Jennings hopes upsets can be pulled for Democrats like Frank Alcock, who challenges Republican Greg Steube for an open state Senate seat, and Fredd Atkins, who is running for Sarasota County Commission against Republican Mike Moran. Gruters hopes for a big enough night to see a candidate like Jim Bender, the Republican running to unseat long-time Democratic incumbent Barbara Ford-Coates. 

Polls will be open today until 7pm.

Photos by Wyatt Kostygan, Wes Roberts

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