I spent a good bit of time going over Keys election returns to prepare for my appearance on the Florida Roundup and I didn't get to use most of it -- because the show is about, you know, Florida and the Keys are a pretty small part of the state, electorally speaking.
But I think it's interesting so I'm going to share what I've gleaned in case you do, too. The overall numbers, if you're interested, are here and detailed precinct breakdowns are here -- special thanks to alert reader Dave D. for the link to that.
The first thing I noticed was that Monroe County's voters voted in much higher numbers, percentage-wise, than our neighbors. Monroe was 56 percent overall. Miami-Dade was a pathetic 40 percent, Broward 44 percent. If you want to know who elected Rick Scott, you can thank the South Florida mainland no-shows. Statewide turnout was about 50 percent.
In Key West, Democrats are taking credit for extraordinary get out the vote efforts. After all, they say, U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia won in the Keys (despite losing the seat, which is partially in Miami-Dade), as did Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist. And Key West, the county's largest population center, went for Garcia (whose district residency is here) by overwhelming numbers: 67 to 33 percent.
BUT ... Key West actually lagged behind other areas of the county in turnout. Precincts on the island show a turnout of 53 percent, lower than the county average. Marathon precincts show a turnout of 58 percent and the Upper Keys -- from Islamorada to Ocean Reef -- 61 percent. And those areas? Not so liberal.
A lot of people in Key West were expressing feelings of betrayal and dismay that the Keys, as a whole, favored Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi in spite of widespread support for gay marriage in these parts. We even made the plaintiffs in Monroe's landmark gay marriage case the grand marshals of Fantasy Fest this year! But once again, the perception of liberal Key West does not extend up the Keys. County wide, our voter registration is 36 percent Republican, 33 percent Democratic and 31 percent other. If you had a map of the Keys and a set of crayons you would start out coloring the islands deep blue in Key West, go purplish somewhere around Cudjoe and be well into the red by the time you reached Islamorada. The Ocean Reef Club, the exclusive, wealthy gated compound at the tip of North Key Largo, is overwhelmingly Republican and they vote, even if it's absentee -- 73 percent turnout in this election. That's a relatively small number for a statewide race -- 820 votes this time. But in a local race, voting as a bloc, they can really make a difference.
Getting High, Part I
If Amendment 2, which would have approved the use and sale of medical marijuana, had been decided in Monroe County it would have easily passed the 60 percent threshold it needed to become part of the state constitution. Statewide, it got 58 percent. In Monroe: 72 percent. Not surprisingly, Key West led the way with 79 percent for approval. But it was interesting to see that out of all 33 precincts in Monroe, every single one voted in favor and only two -- Key Colony Beach and Ocean Reef -- favored it by less than 60 percent.
It's for the Kids
I wasn't entirely surprised to see the half-cent sales tax approved for the Monroe County School District, even though this was the first time voters were having their say on that since the district's mega scandal which saw the superintendent convicted of three felonies. And those felonies were covering up for his then-wife, a district employee who eventually pled guilty and went to jail for stealing more than $400,000 from the district.
The School Board has been divided and acrimonious for the last several years, which I thought might not help, and I didn't see as public and united a campaign in favor of the tax as I have in years past. But I think their basic message -- that sales tax is easier on the locals than property tax, since tourists pay at least half the sales taxes in the Keys -- got through. Plus, you'd have to feel like a heel voting against education. This one had fairly uniform approval throughout the Keys. The highest percentage in favor -- 74 percent -- came from Ocean Reef. It would be awesome if they could buy their luxury cars and private jets in Monroe County.
Getting High, Part II
The biggest surprise, to me, in the election returns was the overwhelming support for the building height referendum in Key West. It passed with 81 percent of the vote. The measure allows homeowners to raise their homes up to four feet above flood level, to a maximum of 40 feet. I'm not surprised it passed -- the memories of flooding from Wilma are still traumatic for many and even those who didn't get damage are worried about flood insurance rate hikes. But I also expected more skepticism from Key Westers when it came to building height exemptions. This is a low-level town that is so wary of tall buildings that the city charter requires exceptions to be approved by referendum (like this one). Current height restrictions are 25 feet in residential areas, 30 feet everywhere else. The local paper and a few prominent preservationists recommended voting no. But there wasn't much of a campaign against it while city officials and insurance rate advocates like FIRM did a good job getting their message out.