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New voter registrations turn county red

For the first time probably ever, but certainly since
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1940’s attracted a strong following
in the rural South, Franklin County is now more red than blue.

As of Tuesday, among the county’s 8,150 registered voters, Republicans
outnumbered Democrats 3,418 to 3,408, with 1,324 voters preferring to remain
without party affiliation or with a smaller party.

“The county has largely almost always voted Republican (in
recent years),” said Supervisor of Election Heather Riley. “The numbers fluctuate,
according to what the political climate is, the numbers are going to change.
Minds change on how they feel about certain issues.”

The reason for the continued switch to Republican is no more
clearly demonstrated than in both new registrations, and party changes,
since Jan. 1.

According to data from Riley’s
office, of the 176 new registrations since Jan. 1, the overwhelming majority have
been Republican, with a smattering of Democrats, and those without party

Most couples appear to have both signed on with the same
party, but there have been some exceptions, based on a look at shared

On St. George Island, for example,  in the case of
Connie and John Brannen, she signed up as a Republican and he chose to stay
unaffiliated, while the roles were reversed with Deborah and Randall Cothren.

In terms of switches to party registration, there have been
76 since Jan. 1, with 36 abandoning the Dems, and 28 the GOP.

Of the 76 switches, the Democrats picked up four former Republicans,
and three that were without party affiliation beforehand.

The GOP, on the other hand picked up 19 former Dems, and
picked up three that had been without party affiliation.

Interestingly, 19 Republicans left the party to opt for going
without affiliation, while about half as many, 10 former Dems, abandoned any party affiliation

The county’s switchover to preferring to be Republicans is
largely attributable to voters living in the unincorporated portions of the county,
where about 57 percent of the people are signed on with the GOP.

In Apalachicola, Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly
three to one, while in Carrabelle the Dems have only a handful more registered voters
than do Republicans.

Among county commission districts, the reddest by far is District
1, which encompasses St. George Island and Eastpoint. Both District 3 and 4, in
the city of Apalachicola and its outskirts, are still mostly Democrat. The
other two districts east of the river are both majority Republican.

Female voters outnumber male voters in the county, 4,225 to
3,885. Nine out of 10 registered voters in the county are white, while Blacks
make up only 7 percent of the electorate. About 2 percent of voters identify as
other, and another fewer than 1 percent as Hispanic.

Tax Collector Rick Watson, who recently won reelection as a Republican,
illustrates the change in party affiliation that has gradually affected
Franklin County.

A former chairman of the Bay County Democratic party, Watson
switched to being a Republican in 1988, following the completion of Ronald
Reagan’s two terms.

But it hadn’t been due to Reagan’s attractiveness that led
to Watson’s switch.

“George H. W. Bush was the first Republican I voted for, I didn’t
vote for Reagan either time,” he said.

Perhaps the fact that his brother Jack was chief of staff to
President Jimmy Carter affected Watson’s choice in the voting booth.

“The Democratic party left me, I didn’t leave the Democratic
party,” Watson said.

“When I came here in 1992 I was the 207th (registered)
Republican,” he said. “As late as 2008, the GOP was only 15 percent.”

Sheriff AJ Smith and Superintendent Steve Lanier are two other
Republican officeholders, as are county commissioners Ricky Jones and Bert

In 1976, the county strongly preferred Democrat Jimmy Carter
over Republican Gerald Ford, and in 1980 they continued to back Carter, giving
him the edge over Reagan.

After two terms of county support for Reagan, in 1992 county
voters preferred Republican George H. W. Bush over Democrat Bill Clinton, with
nearly as many voters opting for independent H. Ross Perot.

But by 1996 county voters preferred Democrat Bill Clinton
over Republican Bob Dole, 46 to 34 percent, with another 19 percent liking independent
H. Ross Perot.

That would be the last election where the county voted for a
Democrat for president.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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