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FishHawk Ranch Residents Get Out the Vote

Residents waited in long lines outside The Palmetto Club.

Every four years, in the pouring rain or the beating hot sun, you'll find FishHawk Ranch resident Roger Rush waving a large American flag and greeting passersby with "Happy New President's Day" outside The Palmetto Club.

It's a commitment the 56-year-old made in 1979 when he nearly lost his life in a water skiing accident. 

"I woke up from surgery a different person," said Rush. Despite the 175 stitches in his head, Rush said he had a renewed purpose in life. 

"I'd been an atheist ever since I attended the University of Florida, but something happened to me when I had that accident," he said. "I've been a Christian ever since."

And, as a Christian, Rush feels it's his avowed duty to campaign for candidates he believes shares his Christian values. He's staunchly pro-life.

He said he's also proud to call himself a patriot, a legacy that dates back to his ancestor, Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

"Dr. Rush was a good friend of Benjamin Franklin's," said Rush. "He's known for three things: he wrote the first primer for schools, he gave his medical services away to penniless people and he started the movement to free the slaves."

Eager to cast their votes, FishHawk residents lined the sidewalk beside the Palmetto Club early Tuesday morning. One voter said it took her 1 1/2 hours to vote.

The largest voting precinct in the Hillsborough County, FishHawk Ranch is decidedly Republican.

In fact, there wasn't a single Obama sign to be found around The Palmetto Club.

That's one of the reasons County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, R-Plant City, made it a point to stop by The Palmetto Club.

By noon, he'd already been to eight polling places when he and his wife, Devon, made their way to FishHawk Ranch.

"I'll be going to a lot more places before the day is done," said Higginbotham, who is running against Democrat Mark Nash and Joy Green, who has no party affiliation, for re-election to the commission.

Standing beside Higginbotham were FishHawk Ranch resident Eileen Maginnis and her daughter, Michelle.

Maginnis said she has long been a supporter of Higginbotham but decided to campaign for him after the Newsome High School hockey team won the state championship in 2009. Maginnis' son played on the team.

"Al came out and handed every kid a certificate of achievement," she said. "It really touched my heart and it cemented how I already felt about him."

Property appraiser candidate, Bob Henriquez, D-Tampa, felt like a bit of a lone wolf at The Palmetto Club, surrounded by Republicans. He said he's spent a great deal of time trying to convince Democrats to come out and vote. 

"We have more registered Democrats in Hillsborough County but traditionally the Republican voter turnout is higher," he said. "We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

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