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St. Petersburg, FL—the site of today's special election
Polls close at 7 PM ET in Florida's 13th Congressional District, one of the nation's most closely divided House seats. This district, in Pinellas County on Florida's Gulf Coast, became vacant after longtime Republican Rep. Bill Young died last October. Democrat Alex Sink, the state's former chief financial officer, will face lobbyist David Jolly in this district that Obama won 50-49. (Libertarian Lucas Overby is also in the mix.) Both sides have spent big here and are burning to score a win in this true tossup of a race. Democrats would especially love to pick up a district that Young's popularity kept out of reach for decades.

Democrats have sought to paint Jolly as a creature of D.C. who's lobbied for conservative interests that want to privatize Social Security, a double-whammy attack that plays on Washington's deep unpopularity and fears among seniors and their caregivers that Republicans want to undermine the social safety net. Republicans, meanwhile, have tried to portray Sink as a tool of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi who wants to inflict Obamacare on the district at all costs.

National Republicans would very much like to see this race as a referendum on the Affordable Care Act, in order to indimidate Democrats into backing away from their support of health care reform on the campaign trail. Democrats, meanwhile, want to call this contest a bellwether that will augur further gains in November. In reality, this is one single special election, and drawing broad conclusions based on a single race, especially one so oddly timed, is misguided.

Ultimately, the most important factor here is that large chunks of Democratic-leaning voters simply don't turn out for non-presidential races. Polling has shown this contest incredibly close, which is actually quite remarkable, given that Democrats have regularly lost several special elections at the legislative level in much bluer districts. Unlike some of those debacles, this one is going to come down to the wire, and that might be the most notable thing of all.

Head below the fold for information on other races being held tonight, and for more on future special elections, see our calendar here. You can also share your predictions for all of these races in comments, and be sure to check back at Daily Kos Elections at 7 PM ET as we liveblog the results.

Also in Florida today is a special Republican primary for a legislative seat in the Orlando area. In HD-44, former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle will take on Wyndham Vacation Ownership Director Stephen Vincent Facella. The district went for Romney 53-46, so the winner tonight will be the clear favorite in the April 8 general.

There's also a special election for New Hampshire's Executive Council District 1. The Executive Council is a powerful body unique to New Hampshire. It approves state contracts, the governor's judicial appointments, and state agency appointments. Democrats currently hold three seats on the council while Republicans now have just one, and a win here would help solidify Democratic control of the body. As in FL-13, th post became vacant after the longtime Republican occupant passed away. The candidates are Democratic Grafton County Commissioner Michael Cryans and Republican former state Sen. (and 2008 gubernatorial nominee) Joe Kenney.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 09:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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