Politics & Policy

Five Florida Primaries to Watch Tonight

Florida voters are taking to the polls today to cast primary ballots for candidates to represent them in the general election this November. Here’s who to keep an eye on tonight:

GOVERNOR: GOP primary

Negative campaigning on both sides has quickly devolved this race into one of the most bitter primaries in the country. McCollum was, at one point, the presumptive GOP nominee until Scott entered the race with a flurry of campaign ads — fueled by approximately $40 million of his own money. Fickle polls and a tight race have kept both candidates on the attack for months.

  • Bill McCollum: Current Florida attorney general, congressman from FL-5 and FL-8 between 1981 and 2001. Has been characterized as an “insider politician” by Scott; indeed, establishment Republicans have circled the wagon around him.

  • Rick Scott: Entrepreneur and health care executive. Became involved in politics after organizing against Obama’s health care bill. Has been criticized by McCollum for Medicare fraud that took place at his company while he was CEO.


SENATE: Democrat primary

Both Kendrick Meek and Jeff Greene trail independent Charlie Crist and Republican Marco Rubio in the polls. For Rubio, the difference is that Meek has a Congressional record, is African-American, and isn’t scandal ridden, which means he would pull likely Democratic voters away from Crist and split the base much more effectively than Greene.

  • Kendrick Meek: Congressman in FL-17, and son of Carrie Meek, who held the seat from 1993 until 2003, when Kendrick was elected.

  • Jeff Greene: A real-estate billionaire who made approximately $500 million by shorting the housing market prior to the financial crisis. Most widely known for his friendships with celebrities like Mike Tyson (who was best man in Greene’s wedding) and alleged parties that took place on his yacht. Has spent approximately $23 million of his own money on his Senate bid.


HOUSE: 8th District – GOP primary

Incumbent and liberal firebrand Alan Grayson is heavily targeted by the GOP for his rhetoric as much as for his policy. Cook gives the district a R+2 rating. That said, Grayson is a fundraising monster, has pulled in $3.8 million during the election cycle, and will be tough to defeat — especially since the Republicans still haven’t rallied behind a single David to take down this lefty Goliath.

Seven Republicans are vying for the chance to take a swing at Grayson. Candidates to know:

  • Daniel Webster: former state legislator, endorsed by Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and the Orlando Sentinel.

  • Bruce O’Donoghue: A local businessman and the largest GOP fundraiser with just over $550k in receipts as of the last FEC reporting period.

  • Kurt Kelly: State legislator, known nationally for suggesting that Grayson wants our troops to die.


HOUSE: 17th District – Democrat primary          

Kendrick Meek has held this seat since 2003, but is now running for the Senate. In a district that split 87-12 for Obama in 2008 (and has a Cook rating of D+34), there are no serious Republican contenders, which means the Democratic primary victor is likely the de facto winner of the general election.

Four Haitian-American candidates are vying to be the first Haitian-American elected to Congress. Two of the candidates were formerly married to each other. One, who leads in fundraising, has invested $1.3 million of his own money. And one was robbed at gunpoint on Saturday.


HOUSE: 24th District – Republican primary

The space coast district that includes Kennedy Space Center is rated as a R+4 by Cook, is represented by freshman Democrat Suzanne Kosmas, and is considered one of the likeliest GOP pickups.

Major GOP contenders:

  • Craig Miller – Former CEO of Ruth’s Chris restaurant chain. Features a photo with Sarah Palin prominently on his website. Has been criticized for a recent mailer attacking Karen Diebel that NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions said made him, “sick to his stomach.”

  • Karen Diebel – Vice mayor and city commissioner of Winter Park, FL, Verizon executive. Huckabee approved.

  • Sandy Adams – Former deputy sheriff, and eight-year veteran of the Florida statehouse, whose name recognition with constituents in parts of the district may help her tonight.


HOW TO WATCH: The Florida Department of State has a website where voters can keep track of votes as they roll in: http://enight.elections.myflorida.com

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