Voters across the Sunshine State will be heading to the polls on Tuesday to vote in competitive primaries across Florida.
With Gov. Rick Scott facing term limits, there are competitive contests on both sides of the aisle to replace him. On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., who has President Donald Trump’s support, leads in most polls over Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. On the Democratic side, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., is the favorite to win her party’s gubernatorial nomination over a crowded field including Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who has been rising in recent polls, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, billionaire Jeff Greene whose support is on the decline, and businessman Chris King.
There are plenty of questions in the primaries to replace retiring Attorney General Pam Bondi. On the Republican side, polls show a close contest between former Judge Ashley Moody, who has Bondi’s support, and state Rep. Frank White, R-Pensacola. This contest has grown increasingly bitter in recent weeks with attacks coming in from both sides. State Rep. Sean Shaw, D-Tampa, looked like the favorite over Central Florida attorney Ryan Torres. There have been some stunning developments in recent days, including Shaw successfully suing to get Torres out of the contest. While Torres has appealed the decision and is on the ballot, Shaw is in decent shape to prevail on Tuesday.
The battle to replace Putnam has been off center stage but there are interesting primaries to replace him on Tuesday. Three Republicans–state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Lake Placid, state Rep. Matt Caldwell of Lehigh Acres and former state Rep. Baxter Troutman–are running close with former Army Col. Mike McCalister, who ran for governor in 2010 and for the U.S. Senate in 2012, behind them but still within striking distance. With plenty of undecided voters, this one looks like a jump ball. On the Democratic side, lobbyist Nikki Fried, Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter and biologist R. David Walker are running in a primary that frankly hasn’t commanded much attention.
The Republican primary to see who challenges U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in November, on the other hand, simply isn’t competitive. Riding high in the polls, especially with Florida Republicans, Scott looks headed for a big win on Tuesday. The governor faces businessman Rocky de la Fuente, the Reform Party’s presidential candidate in 2016. This year, de la Fuente has run in numerous Senate primaries in several states across the nation with no success whatsoever. That won’t change on Tuesday when Scott is expected to run over him on his way to a clash with Nelson which should garner national attention.
There are some key congressional primaries across Florida on Tuesday. Keep an eye on CD 6, stretching from the southern part of St. Johns County down the Atlantic Coast to Volusia County. With DeSantis not running for a fourth term, there is a competitive Republican primary with former state Rep. Fred Costello, veteran and former Dick Cheney aide Mike Waltz and businessman and veteran John Ward running. Waltz looks like the favorite but his criticism of Trump could come back to haunt him with Republicans in the district. On the Democratic side, the national party has high hopes for Nancy Soderberg who worked on national security issues for the Clinton administration, but Dr.Stephen Sevigny has assembled a decent warchest and is looking to pull off the upset.
In South Florida, with U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., retiring after almost three decades in Congress, there are crowded fields of candidates on both sides of the aisle trying to replace her. Former U.S. HHS Sec. Donna Shalala, who led the University of Miami, looks like the favorite on the Democratic side but state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach has been going all out to defeat her. If Shalala stumbles–and that is a fairly large sized if–Richardson is in the best position to take advantage of it. Former news anchor Maria Elvira Salazar is leading the crowded Republican field but Bruno Barreiro, currently a Miami-Dade County commissioner and a former state representative, and the rest of her opponents are ready to strike if she falters.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., is retiring from Congress after four terms of representing parts of Central Florida, including most of Polk County and the eastern part of Hillsborough County. State Rep. Ross Spano, R-Riverview, got out of the attorney general race to run for this seat and he is facing a close contest against former state Rep. Neil Combee. Polls show a close contest between Combee and Spano despite three other Republicans in the contest. Whoever wins the Republican primary will be a heavy favorite in November over whoever wins the Democratic nomination on Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., is also bowing out of Congress. There’s an interesting primary between two Republicans serving in the state Legislature: state Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota and state Rep. Julio Gonzalez of Venice. Whoever wins the Republican nod should be able to easily keep this seat come November.
Two Democrat incumbents are facing high profile primaries on Tuesday. After beating U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., last time out, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Fla., faces former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown on Tuesday. Lawson leads in the polls since Brown has struggled outside of Jacksonville and looks headed for a win. Whoever wins the primary should be safe over Republican Virginia Fuller in the general election.
In Central Florida, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., has to face former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla. When Grayson ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, Soto won the open seat, beating Grayson’s then girlfriend, now wife, Dena in the primary. Grayson has tried to run to Soto’s left while the party leadership has backed Soto who hopes Central Florida’s growing Puerto Rican community rallies behind him on Tuesday.
There are other congressional primaries across Florida to keep an eye on. State Rep. Mike Miller of Orlando and businessman Scott Sturgill clash in the Republican primary to see who takes on U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., who upset longtime U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., in 2016. Democrats Lauren Baer and Pam Keith are running to see who challenges U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., in November. While U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., is the favorite in November, there have been plenty of punches thrown in the Republican primary to challenge him as businessman Nicolas Kimaz and blogger Javier Manjarres battle for position. In the north part of the state, attorney Brandon Peters and former Leon County Commissioner Bob Rackleff have had a pretty low key Democratic primary to see who takes on U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., who should be safe in November. Staying in North Florida, Republican U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Ted Yoho hope Trump’s support will help them over their primary opponents.
There are also plenty of legislative primaries and local races–including the Tallahassee mayoral election–on Tuesday. Of course, Florida can expect a mad dash until election day with a competitive Senate race and an open gubernatorial contest. The moment the ballots are counted on Tuesday night, voters in the Sunshine State won’t have much of a break as the general election looms at the start of November.
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