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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Many conservative upstate Democrats favored Rich over Crist

The rural-urban schism between Florida Democrats was glaringly obvious in Tuesday's primary, as conservative upstate voters spoke with one voice: They're decidedly ambivalent about Charlie Crist.

Even though Crist's rival Nan Rich had virtually no money, a liberal voting record and is from South Florida, she received more than 40 percent of the vote in 22 counties. She carried two of them, Holmes and Putnam, and she and Crist broke even in Calhoun.

The Democratic vote totals in these counties don't amount to a huge number, but together they account for a vast portion of geography and the turnouts will be among the highest in the Nov. 4 general election. The results speak for themselves: Voters in this broad swath of the state are rejecting Crist as the Democratic nominee and will likely flock to Republican Gov. Rick Scott in November. …

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Rubio, Bush back winning candidates in Florida primaries

Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush had good primary nights.

Rubio endorsed and cut an ad for Julio Gonzalez in the heated state House District 74 race. Rubio also put his name behind Mike Miller in HD 47.

Jeb Bush did well, too, backing Carlos Curbelo in the U.S. House District 26 primary as well as Carol Platt, who won her central Florida primary and will face U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in November.

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Many conservative upstate Democrats favored Rich over Crist

The rural-urban schism between Florida Democrats was glaringly obvious in Tuesday's primary, as conservative upstate voters spoke with one voice: They don't like Charlie Crist.

Even though Crist's rival Nan Rich had virtually no money, a liberal voting record and is from South Florida, she received more than 40 percent of the vote in 22 counties. She carried two of them, Holmes and Putnam, and she and Crist broke even in Calhoun.

The Democratic vote totals in these counties don't amount to a huge number, but together they account for a vast portion of geography and the turnouts will be among the highest in the Nov. 4 general election. The results speak for themselves: Voters in this broad swath of the state are rejecting Crist as the Democratic nominee and will likely flock to Republican Gov. Rick Scott in November. …

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Broward's turnout second worst in state in Tuesday's primary

If South Florida voters are fired up about the 2014 election, they sure didn't show it Tuesday, reaffirming a fundamental fact about Florida politics: The voters Democrats need the most are the hardest voters to get to the polls.

A repeat performance in November is likely to produce another disaster for Democrats, who have lost the past four elections for governor.

Turnout in the state's three largest counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach again trailed the state as a whole as mass numbers of Democrats ignored the election. Those weak numbers will help Republicans reinforce the idea of an enthusiasm gap in this election. 

Statewide, the turnout was 17.55 percent, the lowest since the first primary in 1998. Broward's turnout was 10.76 percent, second only to rural Glades County, which reported a turnout of 9.3 percent. Palm Beach County wasn't much better with a turnout of 12 percent, and Miami-Dade turnout was 14.4 percent.

Turnout was significantly higher in other, medium-sized counties where Republican Gov. Rick Scott will be strong in November: Bay, 22 percent; Brevard, 22 percent; Citrus, 29 percent; Lee, 24 percent; and Okaloosa, 21 peercent.

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Rick Scott targeted for King Ranch trip in new NextGen ad

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer's group, NextGen Climate, is planning to air its fifth ad targeting Gov. Rick Scott, attacking the Republican this time for his controversial secret hunting trip to King Ranch in Texas.

"What was Rick Scott really hunting for in Texas? Campaign cash from the sugar industry," a narrator intones as a wad of cash comes into a rifle's sight. "The same industry that got a massive bailout from Rick Scott, sticking taxpayers with the bill for cleaning up Big Sugar's water pollution. Rick Scott: sweet deals for the powerful few -- not you."

Oh, the irony. 

Scott's rival, Charlie Crist, was once Big Sugar's favorite when he was a Republican governor and inked a land deal with U.S. Sugar. Scott bashed the buyout/bailout, but then became governor and embraced it and now attacks Crist for not closing the deal.

This ad is scheduled to run in the West Palm Beach and Naples-Fort Myers' media markets. …

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5 things to watch in Charlie Crist vs. Rick Scott

Charlie Crist, the former self-described Ronald Reagan Republican, officially became the Democratic nominee for Florida governor Tuesday, easily beating back a bare-bones primary challenge from former state Sen. Nan Rich of Broward County.

Likewise, Republican Gov. Rick Scott cruised against two obscure and nearly invisible Republican opponents.

That's hardly big news considering Rich could not afford a single TV ad and Scott months ago started attacking Crist as the de facto Democratic nominee. The general election for all purposes began with Scott pouring more than $20 million into TV ads that have steadily turned what had been a double-digit Crist lead into a dead-heat race.

The current governor leads the former governor by 1 percentage point, based on the average of recent Florida polls compiled byRealClearPolitics.com. Here are five things to watch over the next 70 days:

Column here

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Crist, Rich and other top Dems to hold unity events Thursday

Charlie Crist and Nan Rich, rivals in today's lopsided Democratic gubernatorial primary, will join together with other Democratic leaders in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, the party said.

From a news release:

ORLANDO “PEOPLE’S TEAM” EVENT

WHO: Gov. Charlie Crist, Sen. Nan Rich, Rep. Perry Thurston, Hon. George Sheldon, Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and other Democratic leaders

WHAT: Grassroots event with supporters

\WHEN: 10:30 AM (Doors open at 10:00 AM)

WHERE: Painters and Allied Trades Union Hall
2153 West Oak Ridge Road, Orlando, FL 32809Full Story

Sheldon crushes Thurston and will face AG Bondi

TALLAHASSEE — George Sheldon easily beat Perry Thurston Tuesday for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General.Sheldon's double-digit victory ensures the return of a veteran of Florida agencies and yet another proxy war on Obamacare.

In November, he faces Republican incumbent Pam Bondi, a contest that pits the state's most vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act against Sheldon, who left the agency implementing it so he could challenge her.

In October, Sheldon, 67, resigned from his his $179,000 job as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families and announced he was challenging Bondi.

Sheldon worked as deputy attorney general under Attorney General Bob Butterworth between 1999 and 2002. He followed Butterworth to the Department of Children and Families. In 2008, then-Gov. Charlie Crist tapped him to lead the agency.

Sheldon's victory should reacquaint him with Crist on the campaign trail. …

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Battle royale, at last: Crist vs. Scott

Charlie Crist won his first election as a Democrat on Tuesday night, soundly defeating former state Sen. Nan Rich to become Florida's Democratic nominee for governor.

"Congratulations! It's a wonderful night!" Crist said as he hugged his running mate, Annette Taddeo, after Rich called Crist to concede the race minutes after the polls closed.

Crist said the strong showing is a sign that Democrats believe in him despite the fact that he's new to the party.

"Frankly, I think I was on their side when I was in the other party," Crist said as he prepared for his victory speech. He said a friend once told him, " 'Charlie, you've been a Democrat your whole life, you just didn't know it.' Well now I know it."

Incumbent Rick Scott also cruised to victory, setting up the contest everyone expected: the current governor of Florida vs. the former governor of Florida. …

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Curbelo, Domino to take on congressional Democrats

Tonight’s congressional primaries lacked drama but we now have a clear sense of key matchups for November. Three races worth watching:

In South Florida, Carlos Curbelo won the District 26 GOP primary for the right to challenge Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia of Miami. Expect that to be a noisy, costly battle.

A bit north, Carl Domino beat the competition in District 18 and will face Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy. Once considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country, Murphy has raised a lot of money, cast votes that appeal to Republicans, and had the fortune of a GOP field that lacked a rock star. Domino has deep pockets but will national Republicans back him up?

The premier race in Florida has already been staged: Democrat Gwen Graham vs. Republican incumbent Steve Southerland of Panama City.

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Seventeen Florida House seats to be decided in Tuesday's vote

Florida voters will do more than nominate candidates for governor and attorney general on Tuesday. They'll also send some new faces to Tallahassee as they pick occupants for 17 seats in the state House of Representatives.

All are contests in which all candidates are from the same party and the only opposition in November is from a write-in candidate (no write-in has ever won election to the Legislature in Florida).

Here are some of the most closely watched races, beginning with the House district number:

* HD 15, Jacksonville: Republicans Jay Fant and Paul Renner are facing off to replace Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville.

* HD 28, suburban Orlando: Rep. Jason Brodeur is being challenged by Kathryn Townsend in Seminole County, where two GOP incumbents, Chris Dorworth and Scott Plakon, have lost their seats in recent elections.

* HD 31, suburban Orlando: A five-way Republican primary battle for the seat held by the termed-out Rep. Bryan Nelson.

* HD 61, Tampa: Four Democratic candidates seek to replace termed-out Rep. Betty Reed in a contest in which African-American turnout is decisive. …

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Rubio to Obama: Executive action on immigration could 'close the door' to reform in Congress

Sen.  Marco Rubio wrote a letter to President Obama in advance of his expected executive action to legalize more undocumented immigrants.

Dear Mr. President:

As you know, last year I joined efforts in the Senate that successfully passed a bipartisan bill to address immigration. It was my hope that Senate action on this matter could serve as a catalyst for a humane but responsible reform that could ultimately achieve bicameral, bipartisan support. Instead, it led to the stalemate we now face on this issue.

After the experience of the last 18 months, I have become convinced that there is no realistic path forward on comprehensive reform for the foreseeable future. Instead, it is clear to me now that the only approach that has any chance of success is one that addresses our immigration problems in a series of sequential pieces of legislation. …

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PolitiFact Florida reviews claims by Rich, Crist and Scott for primary day

Before Floridians headed to the polls Tuesday for the state's primary election, PolitiFact Florida reviewed some of the statements made by the three biggest names in the gubernatorial race. 

We've checked Democrats Nan Rich and Charlie Crist and Republican incumbent Rick Scott during the primary campaign. They've had plenty to say about education, jobs, taxes and the economy, but we break it all down for you here.

If you'd like to know more about environmentalist PAC NextGen Climate's attacks on Scott about energy and pollution, you can read about them here.Full Story

In dueling ads, Republicans-Graham fight over Obamacare

In a new ad released this morning, the NRCC tries to attach Gwen Graham to Obamacare. Four hours later, Graham released her own ad saying the Affordable Care Act "has got to be changed so it works for North Florida."

The NRCC ad repeats some frequently used claims that don't stand up, including that 300,000 Floridians are "losing coverage." Those policies, under Florida Blue, did not meet the standards of the new law and the customers were told they would be moved to a different plan. The Obama administration, in one of a series of changes to the law, later said the old plans could continue for a year.

The NRCC accuses Graham of saying two different things pointed to tracking video in which a man urges her not to run from Obamacare and that "the tide is turning.:" Replied Graham, "You're right. It's becoming less of an issue."

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Primary election day voting spotty but smooth, state says

Polls across Florida opened smoothly Tuesday, and more than 1.1 million ballots had been cast by the time precincts opened for the statewide primary election. Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state's chief elections officer, said absentee or mail ballots totaled 856,378 and that another 296,902 Floridians had cast ballots at early voting sites.

That may sound like a lot of votes, but it's less than 10 percent of the state's pool of nearly 12 million voters. It's possible that statewide turnout could approach the modern low for a primary (17 percent in 1998), but Detzner declined to speculate on the size of the turnout and said the surge in voting by mail in Florida is a positive trend.

"Voters find absentee voting to be convenient. They can vote in their home. They can take their time," Detzner said.

Detzner reminded the public that polls close at 7 p.m. local time but all voting does not end until 8 p.m. Eastern time because the western Panhandle is in Central time.

Election results can be found online at enight.elections.myflorida.com. …

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