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State, Pinellas discuss possible special election dates

Gov. Rick Scott has not yet set dates for the special election in the 13th Congressional District to replace the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, but he may do so in the coming days.

That's according to Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, who has had discussions with Gary Holland, assistant director of the state Division of Elections.

Clark said that the state is looking at holding the primary election on Jan. 14, 2014 and the general election on March 11, 2014. The first date is the Tuesday preceding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 20, and the second date is already set aside for municipal elections in 16 of the 24 cities in Pinellas County.

"It's already on the calendar as an election day," Clark said of March 11. "I thanked him (Holland) for contacting me and offering a scenario that works for us."

Nothing is official until Scott issues an executive order setting the dates. Also in the discussion stage, according to Clark, is a proposed one-day qualifying period from noon Nov. 18 to noon Nov. 19. That also is not official until the governor acts.

Both political parties are sure to mount aggressive campaigns to capture the competitive district that Young, a Republican, occupied from 1970 until his death Oct. 18. The unusual timetable will force candidates to organize and raise money quickly and try to seize voters' attention amid Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, New Year's and college football bowl games and that's no easy undertaking.

At present, the 13th Congressional District includes 455,420 registered voters. Republicans have an electoral advantage, with 170,020 voters compared to 158,317 Democrats and 127,083 in other categories.

It's also shaping up as an election to be dominated by mail or what used to be called absentee ballots. Among Florida's 67 county election supervisors, Clark is the leading proponent of voting by mail, and there are 191,000 pending requests for mail ballots, including 79,211 Republicans, 69,288 Democrats and the remainder in other categories.

-- Steve Bousquet