U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat, defeated Republican challenger Anna Paulina Luna to retain his seat in Florida’s 13th District, according to the Associated Press.
With early votes and partial mail-in votes counted and all voting precincts reporting, Crist led Luna 53 percent to 47 percent.
“I’m humbled and very grateful to have won again,” Crist said at a news conference outside his condominium in downtown St. Petersburg. “Public service, I think, is a calling. It’s something I’ve done for a long time. And I’m honored to have the opportunity to do it some more.”
The victory means a third term for Crist, 64, one of Florida’s most recognizable politicians and an advocate in Congress for veterans issues and civility. He said his priorities in the next Congress will be advocating for veterans, protecting Social Security and Medicare, voting rights, protecting the environment and fighting climate change. He said he hopes to introduce a bill to make Election Day a national holiday.
“Just common sense things, things that are good for the people,” he said.
Luna conceded the race on Twitter.
“Although tonight did not go our way, this is not the end of the road,” she wrote. “Patriotism & public service are lifelong endeavors. We love our country. We pray for our country. And we will continue to serve our country. Thank you for your support."
Crist, a St. Petersburg native was a state senator, Florida’s education commissioner, attorney general and governor, all before reaching Washington.
He was a Republican his entire career in Tallahassee, switching to the Democratic Party before again running for governor in 2014, losing to incumbent Gov. Rick Scott. He defeated incumbent Republican David Jolly in 2016 for the 13th congressional seat.
This race was Luna’s first bid for public office. The southern California native is a U.S. Air Force veteran and former swimsuit model who entered politics by working for conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA. She changed her name and moved to St. Petersburg from Washington state in 2019 ahead of her entrance into the race.
Luna, 31, also ran on a platform prioritizing veterans issues. She was trailing in the polls before this summer’s Republican primary, but beat the 2018 Republican nominee George Buck and Amanda Makki, a former U.S. Senate staffer. Luna was backed by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk. She received Trump’s endorsement the night she won the primary.
A millennial conservative firebrand, she activated her formidable social media base to out-raise Crist in the late months of the election.
In some ways, Luna outperformed expectations. A St. Pete Polls survey conducted last week showed Crist up by 16 points, the margin by which Crist defeated his 2018 opponent, George Buck.
He said he wasn’t surprised by the six-point margin for this election cycle.
“This is an odd year, it’s 2020," he said. "We’ve had a pandemic, we’ve had an economic disaster, there’s a lot that’s going on that’s different than just two years ago. My opponent had $3 million, my opponent two years ago had virtually nothing.”
U.S. representatives make $174,000 per year and serve a two-year term. U.S. House District 13 covers Pinellas County south of Dunedin.