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FSU Remembers Burt Reynolds

September 7th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The passing of Burt Reynolds is being felt around the world, and the legendary actor’s Florida roots make his death especially hard for many in the state’s capital city.
The original home once owned by Burt Reynolds no longer stands on its former lot in the state’s capital, but the actor’s impact on the city is far from gone.
“He was a giver,” said FSU President John Thrasher.
Thrasher says Reynolds, who graduated from the University in 1958, never forgot his Alma mater.
“His early days here and the reputation that he established as an incredible movie star and all the other things he did really helped put FSU on the map,” said Thrasher.
Reynolds played two seasons on the FSU football team, both cut short by injuries.
After going into acting he continued supporting the team.
“When he built Reynolds hall for the athletes back I guess in the 80’s that was a big contribution back then. He bought uniforms at one time for the athletes,” said Thrasher.
His greatest focus though, was always FSU’s theater and film programs, where he often returned to teach students.
We spoke with Paul Cohen, Executive Director of the the FSU Film School Torchlight Program.
“He would come and do master classes. I mean literally stay for weeks at a time. He was enormously generous and giving and kind with his time,” said Cohen.
Reynolds also has a plaque in the Florida artists hall of fame in the state’s Capitol. He was inducted in 1993.
He was inducted in 1993.
FSU says ideas of how to commemorate Reynolds on campus are currently in the works.

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Gubernatorial Tickets Complete

September 6th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Florida’s two gubernatorial nominees selected their running mates Thursday, meeting a 5 pm deadline required by state law.
Ron DeSantis’s pick, Jeannette Nunez is now the first Cuban-American woman to run to be the state’s Lt. Governor.
As a state representative from Miami for the last eight years,  she rose to the number two leadership position in the House.
In her last year, she passsed legislation to keep the state on daylight saving time year round and she helped broker a deal ending child marriage in the State.
During the Presidential Campaign, Rep. Nunez supported Marco Rubio, tweeting in March 2016 “Wake up Florida voters, Trump is the biggest con-man there is.”
DeSantis’s primary win is largely credited to the President’s support.
Democrat Andrew Gillum chose to make his pick known first on social media.
He chose primary rival, Winter Park Developer Chris King.
“He beat me pretty badly. But I came to care for him, and I came to admire him,” King said in a Facebook live announcement.
Political scientist Carol Weissert says both nominees employed different strategies with their picks.
“Gillum really went for the policy side and DeSantis went for the politics side. Gender, ethnicity, geography. Those are the classic political decisions, rather than finding someone who looks like you ideologically,” said Weissert.
Most Governor’s promise that their Lt. Governor will have a meaningful role.
Few seldom do.
In recent history, only two Lt. Governors have ever moved to the top job.
One for three days, the other for three weeks after the death of Lawton Chiles.

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The Primary Election Went Smoothly…Concerns for General Remain

September 6th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The State Elections Canvasing Commission confirmed the results of the 2018 primary election Thursday morning.
Secretary of State Ken Detzner says last week’s election went off without a hitch.
“We had a very good election. We had no problems with cyber security,” said Detzner.
Detzner says despite a smooth Primary, election’s officials aren’t ruling out the potential for Russian election interference in November.
“Nobody is overconfident. We are working hard making sure all of our systems are working,” aid Detzner.
Complicating election planning are a number of ongoing lawsuits that could affect what voters see on their General Election ballots.
Most are challenging constitutional amendments, but what elections supervisors fear most is a Federal lawsuit demanding bilingual ballots in 32 counties.
“The whole concerns about Russians hacking our elections… There’s going to be enough chaos created by trying to have these counties have bilingual ballots right now,” said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley.
Elections Supervisors say it would be impossible to print ballots in Spanish before the first mail ballots go out September 22nd.
In a hearing Wednesday, Judge Mark Walker seemed to agree providing bilingual ballots by November was unrealistic, but also suggested the state has been ignoring federal law for years by not providing Spanish language ballots to Puerto Ricans living in the state.
Detzner declined to comment on the case.
“It would be very inappropriate for the Secretary of State to comment on something that the judge is considering at this time,” said Detzner.
A ruling in the bilingual ballot case is expected by the end of the week.
The State Supreme Court has yet to make the final ruling on any of the challenges to the constitutional amendments.

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Federal Judge Considers Suit to Require Bilingual Ballots in 32 Counties

September 5th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Should ballots be bi-lingual?
That’s the question before a Federal judge in the state’s capital city.
The Federal suit against the state was brought after Hurricane Maria when a large population of Puerto Rican’s moved to the state.
It was filed by a coalition of civil rights groups.
They argue the state must provide Spanish voting materials and bi-lingual ballots in 32 counties under the Federal Voting Rights Act.
Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Early began providing a number of voting resources in Spanish after he was contacted by the coalition this past April.
“We had one person request assistance voting in Spanish. You know out of 206,000 voters. 76,000 that voted,” said Early.
And despite Early’s efforts the coalition wasn’t satisfied with the progress because Leon County doesn’t provide bilingual ballots.
Supervisors say it’s impossible to implement everything asked for in the suit in time for the election.
“We have to do the database work first and then we generate the ballots  and send them out,” said Early. “We have to be able to test them before we mail them out. So that September 22nd deadline just 17 days away is a hard fast deadline for every bit of this as far as bi-lingual ballots go.”

Judge Mark Walker seemed to agree the deadline couldn’t be met, but also suggested the state has ignored Federal law for years by not providing the materials to Puerto Ricans in the state.

Walker noted previous court rulings have interpreted the Voting Rights Act to guarantee Puerto Ricans Spanish ballots because they are taught Spanish in U.S. Schools.
“That’s the lesser of the debates right now,” said Early. “The primary debate I think right now is what is possible for supervisors to put in place for the current election cycle.”
A ruling is expected to come quickly.
Based on what the judge said from the bench, neither side is likely to be completely happy with the ruling.
Currently 14 counties provide bilingual ballots.
13 of those are required to do so by Federal law because of their high Spanish speaking populations.

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Gubernatorial Campaigns Spent Twice as Much Out of State as in State

September 5th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Campaign finance records show the seven major contenders in last week’s gubernatorial primary spent a total of just over $127 million.
The candidates spent more than two dollars out of state for every dollar they spent in Florida.
During the primary, Gubernatorial candidates talked up Florida.
“I love Florida. I grew up in Florida. I got married in Florida,” Chris King said in a television ad.
But not enough to spend their money here.
Campaign records show the seven major candidates spent over $85 million out of state and just $41 million here.
“I want to be around the broadcast shows that are likely to have voters, and frequent voters,” said GOP strategist Pete Dunbar. “That would be the morning news programs and things of that nature. Those are all national buys.”
Only Democrat Phil Levine spent big in the state.
He put 24 of his $26 million total in Florida.
He was the only candidate to use home grown television production and media buys.
“Too often people lean on the science than the art,” said democratic strategist Steve Schale. “But it is a mix of the science and the art.”
Schale advised the Gwen Graham Campaign.
He says out of state doesn’t always mean there’s no Florida tie.
“In the business, the people who do well here end up going to DC,” Schale. “And so a lot of the people who do work in Florida that are out of state consultants are also people who have done a lot of work in Florida.”
Dunbar says high level consultants couldn’t make a living on Florida candidates alone.
The candidates also spent about $6 million on direct mail.
That’s enough to send out more than 21 million pieces, or about seven for everyone who voted.
Even though the bulk of TV time was purchased out of state, a lot of the cash went to local Florida stations, minus a 15% buyers commission.
The Candidates spent a total of $40.45 for every vote that was cast last Tuesday.
The total doesn’t include cash spent on behalf or against a candidate by out of state interest groups.

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State Halts Visits to Greyhound Facilities

September 4th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

Greyhound breeders and some tracks have been offering Floridians the chance to visit their facilities first hand to learn what they are calling the “truth” about how the animals are being treated.

On Friday the state agency that regulates dog tracks, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, put the skids on the visits, saying citizens are allowed in restricted areas.

Jack Cory of the Florida Greyhound Association says people are still invited to farms and kennels.

“The only way to get the truth and facts is to come and visit a greyhound kennel or visit a greyhound farm. We have always done that. We have done that for decades,” said Cory. “Now, suddenly last Friday, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, on a complaint from the advocates on this issue are trying to shut down those visits. That will not work. The farms are gonna be available. We’re not under DBPR, and frankly, we’re going to continue inviting folks to come see the truth and facts at the track”.

Opponents of dog racing have called the visits ‘staged photo opportunities’.

Protect Dogs: Yes on 13 Campaign says it did not file any complaints against the visits with DBPR.

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Gubernatorial Candidates Still Looking for Running Mate With Two Days to Spare

September 4th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Gubernatorial  nominees Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum won a week ago today and they’re already facing a major deadline… who to pick for a running mate.
The deadline for Gubernatorial nominees Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum to pick a running mate is 5 pm, Thursday.
“There’s a huge risk and danger here. Now most of these people who have been speculated seem like they have no skeletons to hide, things of that nature, but they could potentially sink a ballot if something is discovered,” said TCC political science professor Dr. Richard Murgo.
DeSantis has already put out a short list of nine possible picks.
They’re mostly state lawmakers.
Political analysts say both candidates are likely to pick a more moderate Lieutenant governor, to even out their more hard line stances.
“This race is really going to come down to independents. So the Lieutenant Governor pick is going to be someone who appeals to that independent crowd,” said FAMU political science professor Dr. Christopher Daniels.
Both candidates are also likely to pick a woman to run with them.
More than half of DeSantis’ short list are women.
So are nearly all of the candidates speculated to be on Gillum’s radar.
“We’ve got two males running so we’ve got to balance that off and they’ve got to bring women to the ballot box,” said Murgo.
Initial speculation surrounding Gillum’s pick pointed to his nearest Primary opponent Gwen Graham.
Gillum told us he wants someone with Legislative experience.
“It is valuable to have had some experience building some relationships across the isle with the Legislature,” said Gillum.
State Senator Lauren Book fits that description and has been rumored to be in the running.
She organized the Parkland March on the Capitol and took on sexual harassment in the Legislature earlier this year.
She also has strong political connections.
Gillum’s campaign hasn’t confirmed any official short list of Lieutenant Governor candidates, saying the first official announcement on the matter will be the final pick.

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Florida Greyhound Racing: A Historical Perspective

September 4th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
The fate of an amendment banning Greyhound racing in Florida is in the hands of the state’s seven Supreme Court Justices.
The industry was as controversial a hundred years ago as it is today.
The State Archive’s oldest pictures of dog racing are from 1922, but the sport started a decade before.
In 1927, the State Supreme Court ruled that betting was illegal, but many tracks kept racing anyway.
By 1931, the Legislature voted to legalize and tax greyhound racing.
Then Governor Doyle Carlton was opposed.
Doyle Jr. says his dad told him about an offer gaming interests thought the Governor couldn’t refuse.
“They said, Governor, you know how much your name is worth today? He said not very much. He said it’s worth a hundred thousand dollars if you’ll sign the race track bill. He said well, it my names worth that much to you, it ought to be worth that much to me, so I just believe I’ll keep it. He vetoed the bill,” Doyle Jr. said in an interview archived by the Florida Legislative Museum.
Carlton’s veto was overridden by one vote, on the last day of the 1931 Legislative Session.
“The racing interests from the East had spent several hundred thousand dollars buying legislative votes,” said Doyle Jr.
That hundred thousand dollars offered to the Governor is worth one point six million in today’s dollars.
The tracks say they are losing money on racing dogs, but breeder advocate Jack Cory says no one is losing anything.

“Public Records show that they took in over two hundred million dollars last year. Over eighty million dollars of that was from live greyhound racing,” said Cory.

Since 1931, more than $73 billion has been bet at Florida tracks.

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Pastors Call for DeSantis Apology

August 31st, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Outrage is growing over comments made by GOP Gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis on Fox News about his opponent Andrew Gillum.
DeSantis took the first shots Gillum just one day after the primary.
“Lets build on the success of Governor Scott. The last thing we need to do is monkey this up,” said DeSantis.
The comment was perceived as racist by many.
It spurred outrage and captured national headlines.
Now a group of faith leaders in the state capital are joining the cries for an apology from the Congressman.
“The term monkey from our Afrocentric psychological, theological perspective is highly offensive,” said Reverend R.B. Holmes with Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.
Pastors believe that DeSantis misspoke and that the comment wasn’t intentionally racist, nonetheless they think he should still apologize.
“All of us know the value of repentence and the importance of forgiveness and I call upon him to repent,” said Pastor Brant Copeland with First Presbyterian Church of Tallahassee.
Earlier in the week Gillum addressed DeSantis’ remarks on network television saying he didn’t need an apology for himself.
“He needs to apologize to Florida voters because if he thinks that those kind of shenanigans are going to be persuasive enough in this midterm election to turn this their way, I think he’s badly mistaken,” said Gillum.
The comments haven’t been all bad for Guilim, they fueled $1 million in campaign contributions in a single day and the money is likely to keep flowing in from both in and out of state.
DeSantis has denied any racial intent to his statements on Fox.
He has so far refused to apologize, calling the reaction from the left manufactured outrage.

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Blue Wave or Ripple?

August 31st, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Democrat Andrew Gillum bested his nearest rival by 45 thousand votes.
“We’ve got to redouble our efforts as we go forward,” said Gillum in his victory speech.
But turnout hardly suggested a ‘blue wave’.
Despite Gillum’s ability to bring out unexpected voters and the highest turnout in a primary election in 16 years, Republican voters outnumbered democrats by more than 100,000.
Also the Republican race wasn’t close, with Ron DeSantis pulling nearly twice as many votes as Gillum, thanks to an endorsement by the President and fewer candidates.
“The president can reach out, put his hand on the shoulder of a man and make him the republican nominee,” said GOP Political Strategist Mac Stipanovich.
Convincing enough Democrats in the state to unify behind Gillum to compete with DeSantis could be a challenge.
Some analysts say Gillum’s hard left platform may cost him the support of some moderate democrats.
“Those in the middle, whether it’s independents or moderate republicans or conservative democrats are going to face a tough choice in November,” said Stipanovich.
However, Gillum’s former opponents are rallying around him.
His popularity on social media has also exploded.
“We went from 40,000 followers to Election day to almost 170,000,” said Gillum Wednesday night.
As of Friday morning he was up to 273 thousand followers.
The online interest could be the first sign of unity among Democratic voters, or a consequence of capturing national headlines for three days in a row.
The Democratic ticket for statewide office includes two African Americans, Andrew Gillum and Sean Shaw and a woman, Nikki Fried. Gillum hopes the diverse array of candidates will result in more democrats turning out on election day.

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Gillum Calls on FBI to Tell Voters He is Not a Target

August 30th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The FBI issued subpoenas to the City of Tallahassee more than a year ago.
Andrew Gillum, the city’s mayor and now Democratic nominee for Governor, has repeatedly said he is not a target of the investigation.
The Gubernatorial hopeful is following a major state paper in calling on the FBI to tell voters what they know.
An investigation into city government contracting in the State Capitol has been underway since 2015.
Two subpoenas seeking development records were delivered to City Hall last June.
A third, a City Commissioner dropped last September.
Since first becoming public, Mayor and now as Democratic Nominee for Governor, Andrew Gillum has repeatedly said he has been told he is not a target of the investigation.
“This investigation seems to have settled around an individual,” said Gillum.
A picture of Gillum with an FBI agent and the supposed informant surfaced last year.
Now, In an exclusive interview, Gillum is calling on the FBI to tell voters what they know.
“I join the Tampa Bay times to make clarification. They’ve done it before, and unfortunately, it was far to close to an election that I think impacted its outcome,” said Gillum.
Republican nominee Ron DeSantis has already hinted he’ll make the investigation an issue.
“I mean, he’s got huge problems on how he has governed Tallahassee,” said DeSantis on Fox News.
The FBI Field Office here in the state Capitol declined to comment on Gillums request.
So far, the investigation hasn’t hurt the Democratic nominee.
Day one of the campaign saw significant fundraising.
“We’re fortunate to have raised about a million dollars online. That’s to say nothing of larger level donors giving to the part on our behalf,” said Gillum.
His Twitter followers have also exploded from 50,000 on election day to almost a quarter million Thursday afternoon.
The election Gillum said, was impacted was Hillary Clinton’s run for President in 2016 when the FBI closed and then reopened an investigation into her use of a private server for classified emails.

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Gillum Scores Victory Despite Being Outspent in Democratic Primary

August 29th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Outspent by rivals by at least ten to one, Democrat Andrew Gillum scored a stunning victory in Tuesday’s primary for Governor.
As the only non-millionaire in the Democratic Party, Andrew Gillum stressed his upbringing.
Gillum beat rival Gwen Graham by more than 68,000 votes in Democratic heavy Southeast Florida, fueling his 45,000 vote victory.
“This race is about every single one of us,” Gillum said in his victory speech Tuesday night.
Appearing first on MSNBC and then CNN Wednesday morning, Gillum said he would not attack his rival, Ron Desantis, but continue to focus on people.
“And I’m running on a platform that says We’re going to create opportunities for everyday Floridians and that’s whats most important to do in order to prevailon November 6th,” said Gillum.
Under Gillum’s watch as a leadership mayor, the FBI served subpoenas, seeking tens of thousands of documents.
Gillum has said since the beginning he was told that he is not a target.
“This investigation has centered around an individual,” said Gillum said on MSNBC.
This is how he responded to the question on CNN, “Should there be individuals who have done anything inappropriate, what we said, they ought to be held fully accountable, but we pushed that issue past us in this primary.”
The questions about the FBI investigation aren’t likely to go away.
“All of them gave Andrew Gillum a pass on some real vulnerabilities that I think the republicans will be working on here pretty quick,” said GOP strategist Mac Stipanovich.
Gillum has until the end of business next Thursday to name a running mate.
The race has already taken a turn towards the nasty.
GOP Nominee Ron DeSantis, on Fox News said electing Gillum would “Monkey Up” the states economy.
The Democratic Party Chair shot back saying ,”It’s disgusting that Ron DeSantis is launching his general election campaign with racist dog whistles.”

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Florida Supreme Court Scrutinizes Amendment to Ban Greyhound Racing

August 29th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The State Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday morning on whether to keep a constitutional amendment banning greyhound racing on the November ballot.
Amendment 13 would end greyhound racing in the state by 2020, but allow tracks to continue offering slots and card rooms.
Breeders argued before the State Supreme Court that the ballot language misleads voters by convincing them the changes are all about the dogs.
“If this passes there will be in effect, a vote for free standing casinos in the state of Florida,” said Major Harding, an attorney representing the Committee to Support Greyhounds.
Supporters of the amendment say if anything the amendment will reduce gambling in the state.
“Nothing is expanded, something is eliminated. Dog racing,” said Stephen Turner with the Committee to Protect Dogs.
Paramutual facilities have only been allowed to operate card rooms and slot machines if they also run greyhounds.
There have been attempts in the Legislature to allow the card rooms to operate independently for years.
Amendment 13 was taken off the ballot by a lower court earlier this month.
The ruling found the ballot summary didn’t inform voters Floridians could still legally place bets on out of state dog races.
The State argues the amendment clearly states the amendment only ends live racing within the state.
“Not only do voters understand that under this amendment races in other states are going to be unaffected, but they also are going to read what the language says,” said Deputy Solicitor General Jordan Pratt.
After the Supreme Court hearing both sides felt confident the court would rule in their favor.
A ruling is likely to come before the November election, but when trying to predict how the court will act there are no safe bets.
Most Elections Supervisors plan to send their ballots to the printer by September 4th at the latest.
If the court hasn’t ruled by then, Amendment 13 will still appear on the ballot.

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Florida Supreme Court Hears Stand Your Ground Case Involving Sheriff’s Deputy

August 28th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
A Broward Sheriff’s deputy facing 30 years for shooting a man with an air rifle was at the Flordia Supreme Court today as the court considers whether police officers can claim stand your ground.
In 2013, Jermaine McBean was walking down a busy South Florida highway carrying a newly purchased air rifle. 9-1-1 lit up.
Originally charged with manslaughter, Deputy Peter Peraza sat in the Supreme Court Chamber as his attorney told Supreme Court justices what happened next.
“BSO. Broward Sheriff’s office. Stop. Drop,” said Eric Schwartzreich an attorney with the Police Benevolent Association.
The case boils down to whether a police officer is also considered a person under the state’s stand your ground law.
“The officer doesn’t get the less rigid standard that we’ve argued applies to the average citizen based on the enactment of Stand Your Ground,” said Assistant Attorney General Melanie Surber.
Justices appeared skeptical.
“If the legislature intended to exclude police officers from the stand your ground statute, why didn’t they say so,” asked Justice Jorge Labarga.
Afterwards, the PBA said the case was important to every police officer in Florida.
“We can’t expect officers to be on the scene and think, well, if I make an arrest this one applies and, we have officers that have to make split second decisions,” said John Rivera, President of the Florida Police Benevolent Association.
While justices seemed to buy the idea that a police officer was also a person, the family says they expect justice.
“We’re thankful that it actually came to the Florida Supreme Court. Just the very fact that our brothers name will be more than just another death, and hopefully we can get a favorable outcome,” said Jermine’s brother, Ander McBean.
If the court denies the deputy’s stand your ground claim, he would have to go to court and prove he acted lawfully.
If the deputy is forced to defend himself in court, he faces up to 30 years in prison on a manslaughter charge.

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Gillum Casts Vote in Tallahassee On Primary Day

August 28th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
All of Florida’s 5,881 precincts were reported open by the Secretary of State’s Office in an e-mail sent at 11 am.
At the same time Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum arrived at his local precinct in the state’s capital city to vote himself.
Gillum became emotional as he described what it felt like to see his name on the ballot.
“You know, watching my mother and father at different times having to struggle between paying the bills to now be in this race and to have my family you know right along side me it’s overwhelming. It’s an overwhelming feeling,” said Gillum.
Gillum’s popularity surged in the final days before the vote, but all of the voters we spoke with had their minds up well before election day.
“Some of them for years,” said Tallahassee voter Sam Shingles.
“I have personal relationships with most of them so I knew exactly who I was voting for,” said voter Yuvonda Stewart.
One of the biggest issues voters we spoke with said mattered to them was gun violence and the second amendment.
“A lot was going on with our young people with the guns and things like that,” said voter Ora Johnson.
“The stand your ground,” said another voter, Sylvia Salvo.
“The second amendment was huge,” said Tallahassee voter Sheila Macdonald.
Another big sticking point was the environment.
“What makes Florida and our natural resources safe from some of the outside influences even at the Federal level,” said voter Sarah McRae.
The latest poll showed Gillum trailing Gwen Graham by nearly seven points.
Gillum says if he does lose he’ll throw his energy behind making sure Democrats win in November.
Because Flordia is In two time zones, the state won’t begin releasing unofficial results until 8PM eastern time when polls in the panhandle close.

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