A few primary things to watch for
Will Rick's voters show up?: Turnout could be a major factor in the GOP primary for governor. Rick Scott is hoping thousands of casual voters flock to the polls to oust career politicians. A lower turnout could benefit Bill McCollum, who has the party infrastructure and a stronger base of supporters. A win by Scott would set the GOP establishment on fire -- it would likely end McCollum’s political career and put his supporters on the spot over who they will back in November. Or how many people sick about the fight will pick third-wheel Mike McCalister?
Will Haridopolos get his candidates? A handful of key state Senate primaries could test the power of incoming president Mike Haridopolos. The Merritt Island Republican has weighed in on several races: Jim Norman over Kevin Ambler in Hillsborough’s District 12; Miguel Diaz de la Portilla over Julio Robaina in Miami’s District 36; Ellyn Bogdanoff over Carl Domino in District 25 in Palm Beach; and Lizbeth Benacquisto over Sharon Merchant in the sprawling Fort Myers-to-Palm Beach District 27. The winners of the two Palm Beach seats face tougher races in November, while the other two primary winners will likely capture a Senate seat this evening.
Will the Greer/GOP-spending scandal hurt candidates? Former GOP Chairman Jim Greer is gone but his connections to candidates and the party’s legacy of spending on credit cards remains. In Pasco County, former Marco Rubio aide Richard Corcoran is getting reminded of his party credit card spending in his state House race (HD45). And in Seminole County, House candidate Jason Brodeur still thinks Jim Greer is the “bees knees.” Will it hurt him?
Do big-name endorsements help? The Republican attorney general primary could hinge on several factors, including the insider vs. outsider theme, support from the party establishment, and big-name endorsements. In the closing days of the race, “Mama Grizzly” Sarah Palin supported Pam Bondi and cut a robo-call for her, while Newt Gingrich did the same for Holly Benson. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp features many more of the bread-and-butter supporters typically found in campaigns. Which endorsements will drive more supporters to the polls?
The oil primary: Oil drilling will be a key factor in one Tallahassee-based state House district. Incumbent Rep. Michelle Rehwinkle Vasilinda has been a stalwart Democrat on most issues, except she voted in 2009 to drill in state waters. She has since changed her stance, but challenger Rick Minor has used the Deepwater Horizon disaster to make that vote politically perilous. Oil is also a factor in the Democratic primary for attorney general. Sen. Dave Aronberg tarred opponent Dan Gelber after Gelber's former law firm decided to represent oil giant BP. Gelber dismissed the attacks and said he was never privy to details about the arrangement and resigned from the firm days after it accepted BP as a client.
Tea party purge: In a number of legislative races, empowered tea partiers are finding that incumbency is a powerful obstacle. At least four House members face challenges on the right (Mike Horner in HD79; Dorothy Hukill in HD28; Debbie Mayfield in HD80 and John Tobia in HD31). Of those races, Horner probably faces the toughest challenge. His opponent, Jose Alvarez of Kissimmee, calls him “Tax Hike Mike.” But with the party behind the incumbents, all are likely to win.
Is there defection in the Democratic ranks? Republicans get all the attention for party fratricide but it’s true for the Democrats, too, as with the Panhandle congressional seat held by Allen Boyd, who is being challenged by state Sen. Al Lawson, the minority leader. Neither candidate can claim the outsider label, but it’s more of an electability argument. Republicans are putting a bulls-eye on Boyd this fall, and Lawson won’t carry the Obama baggage. Also look to a South Florida state Senate seat (SD27) where Rep. Kevin Rader faces a “who’s-the-real-Democrat" challenge from Peter Burkert.
John Frank and Lee Logan