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Florida election roundup: Charlie Crist wins, takes aim at DeSantis

Val Demings, Anna Paulina Luna, Laurel Lee and Wilton Simpson all won big primaries, too.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist greets supporters after addressing them from the podium at his watch party In the Grand Bay Ballroom of the Hilton St. Pete Bayfront Hotel in St. Petersburg. Crist defeated Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the Democratic primary for Florida governor and will take on Gov. Ron DeSantis in November.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist greets supporters after addressing them from the podium at his watch party In the Grand Bay Ballroom of the Hilton St. Pete Bayfront Hotel in St. Petersburg. Crist defeated Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the Democratic primary for Florida governor and will take on Gov. Ron DeSantis in November. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Aug. 23|Updated Aug. 24

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The big news of the night: Rep. Charlie Crist has toppled Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the Democratic primary for Florida’s governor’s race. The Associated Press called the race shortly after 8 p.m. Read the full story here.

Here’s the latest on all of Tuesday’s other primary results across Tampa Bay and Florida.

10:44 p.m.: One Tampa Bay race remains too close to call Tuesday night: House District 65′s Republican primary, in which Karen Gonzalez Pittman holds a slim lead over Jake Hoffman, 44.1% to 42.4%, with Michael Minardi far behind. But the rest of the night unfolded with few tight races. A recap:

In the biggest race of the night, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist defeated Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to take the Democratic primary in the Florida governor’s race. He’ll face Gov. Ron DeSantis this fall.

U.S. Rep. Val Demings won the Democratic primary in the race to take on Sen. Marco Rubio this fall.

In other statewide races, Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson will take on Democrat Naomi Blemur in the race for agriculture commissioner, while Democrat Aramis Ayala will face off against Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Five U.S. House seats held primaries on Tuesday, with longtime Reps. Kathy Castor, Vern Buchanan and Gus Bilirakis easily winning their primaries. In the crowded races for two open seats, Republican Anna Paulina Luna will face Democrat Eric Lynn in Pinellas County’s District 13, while Republican Laurel Lee and Democrat Alan Cohn will square off in District 15, covering portions of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties.

Ten state House seats representing Tampa Bay voters held primaries, with three Republican candidates earning outright victories, as Democrats didn’t field any candidates.

Pinellas County held several races for county commission and school board, with a mix of incumbents and newcomers either winning or facing runoffs.

In Hillsborough County, a vote on a property tax increase to boost school funding appeared too close to call, while several county commission and school board seats wrapped up with clear margins.

A similar property tax increase in Pasco County did pass with voters, who also selected county commissioners and school board members of their own.

For the latest updates on these and other races heading into November’s midterm elections, follow our ongoing political coverage here, or sign up for The Buzz newsletter for weekly insights and analysis on Florida and national politics.

10:06 p.m.: The Associated Press has called Berny Jacques, a former prosecutor who sits on Florida’s 6th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission, as the winner of the Republican House District 59 primary.

Jacques, an executive at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay, earned 51% of the vote, topping business lawyer Jennifer Wilson with 34.8% and retired Navy physician Dipak Nadkarni with 14.1%.

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Jacques will face Democrat Dawn Douglas in November in the race to represent the mid-Pinellas County district.

9:51 p.m.: The Associated Press has called three more Florida House races across Tampa Bay.

In District 53, covering west Hernando and northwest Pasco counties, Hernando commissioner Jeff Holcomb has won the Republican primary with 82.9% of the vote, topping Anthony Kocovic. Holcomb will face Democrat Keith G. Laufenberg in November.

In Pasco County’s District 55, health care technology company owner Kevin Steele came out on top with 59.1% of the vote in the Republican primary, defeating Gabriel Papadopoulos with 27.5% and Brad Sollberger with 13.3%.

And in District 62′s Democratic primary, Michele Rayner earned 53.3% of the vote, topping Wengay Newton with 37.8% and Jesse Phillippe with 8.9%. She’ll face Republican nominee and insurrectionist Jeremy M. Brown in November in the race to represent the newly redrawn district covering southern East Tampa, Gibsonton, Riverview and south St. Petersburg.

9:36 p.m.: The latest local race to be called by the Associated Press: The Republican primary for House District 69, which goes to Danny Alvarez.

Alvarez, a longtime Republican political activist and former sheriff’s official, had 85% of the votes in the southeast Hillsborough district, easily topping anti-abortion activist Megan Angel Petty. Alvarez will now face Democratic Rep. Andrew Learned in November’s general election.

9:31 p.m.: The Associated Press has called the Republican primary in the race for House District 68 for incumbent Lawrence McClure.

McClure, 35, defeated first-time candidate Paul Hatfield with 80.2% of the votes in the district, which covers Plant City and northeastern Hillsborough County. McClure will face Democrat Lorissa Wright in November.

9:23 p.m.: The Associated Press has called Aramis Ayala the winner in the Democratic primary for Florida attorney general.

As of 9:17 p.m., Ayala had 44.7% of the vote, leading Daniel Uhlfelder with 28.2% and Jim Lewis with 27.1%, with 93 percent of precincts reporting.

Ayala, Florida’s first Black state attorney, made national headlines when she announced she would not pursue the death penalty in any cases, angering then-Gov. Rick Scott.

9:18 p.m.: By around 9 p.m. Tuesday, Hillsborough County’s vote on a new tax to support schools was too close to call. With all but two of the county’s 448 precincts counted, the measure seemed headed for a recount, with 50.25% of voters against the measure and 49.75% in favor.

If approved, the tax of $1 on every $1,000 in assessed property value would raise about $146 million a year, with 16% of the proceeds going to privately managed charter schools.

Click here for the story.

Nikki Fried hugs supporter Marcel Santos after losing the Democratic primary for Florida governor against Charlie Crist at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday.
Nikki Fried hugs supporter Marcel Santos after losing the Democratic primary for Florida governor against Charlie Crist at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday. [ MATIAS J. OCNER | Miami Herald ]

9:10 p.m.: Speaking from her watch party in Fort Lauderdale, Nikki Fried offered her congratulations to her victorious opponent in the Democratic primary race for governor, Charlie Crist. She said it was time for the Democratic party to unify.

“We are going to make Ron DeSantis a one-term governor and a zero-term president of the United States,” Fried said.

Click here for the full story on the Florida governor’s Democratic primary.

9:08 p.m.: Most of Hernando County’s precincts have started reporting results for the Republican primary covering State House District 53 in the last 30 minutes. Hernando County commissioner Jeff Holcomb, 51, is in the lead with 82% of the vote as of 9 p.m. against Realtor and author Anthony Kocovic. The House seat represents the west side of Hernando County and northwestern part of Pasco County, where all precincts have reported results.

Holcomb is set to face Democrat Keith G. Laufenberg in the November general election.

9:06 p.m.: In the race for Florida’s next agriculture commissioner, Democrat Naomi Blemur will face Republican Wilton Simpson, the president of the Florida Senate. Blemur is projected to win, with 50 percent of the vote against fellow Democrats Ryan Morales and J.R. Gaillot.

9:05 p.m.: Republican Laurel Lee handily won the primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, an open seat created during the once-a-decade redistricting process.

“Today, Republican voters in Congressional District 15 made clear the type of leadership they want representing them in Congress, and I’m honored to be their nominee going into the general election,” Lee said in a statement.

She won with about 42% of the vote, and the Associated Press called the election for her at about 8:30 p.m. She defeated four other Republicans to represent the area covering parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Pasco.

Among Democrats, Alan Cohn won the race with 33% of the vote, defeating four other primary challengers. In an interview, Cohn said he was grateful voters chose him and that he looks forward to spreading his message in the coming months.

“People want to send someone to Washington who will solve problems and not cause them,” Cohn said.

9:03 p.m.: James Judge has won the Republican primary for the 14th Congressional District, which covers Hillsborough and waterfront Pinellas counties. Judge beat Jerry Torres and Sam Nashagh, netting 53% of the vote. Judge, 38, who owns his own public relations firm, gained notoriety during the campaign for raffling off assault-style rifles as part of a fundraising drive. Judge will face eight-term incumbent Democrat Kathy Castor in the Nov. 8 election.

9:01 p.m.: Having sewn up victory in the Republican primary for House District 68, incumbent Lawrence McClure said he was feeling good and ready to turn focus toward the general election.

“I’m extremely thankful to the voters,” said McClure, 35. “There’s still a lot of work to do to make sure we maintain the quality of life in Florida and meet the expectations of our residents.”

McClure is lifelong Hillsborough County resident. He previously ran an environmental cleanup and consulting firm, but he sold it and now works in business consulting and real estate. He defeated first-time candidate Paul Hatfield, earning 80% of the vote to Hatfield’s 20%.

9 p.m.: In the Hillsborough County Republican primary for county commission, Joshua Wostal appears headed for the nomination. With all but two of the 448 precincts reporting, Wostal lead Chase Harrison by a margin of 50.6% to 49.4%, according to incomplete and unofficial results. The winner of the countywide District 7 primary faces incumbent Democratic Commissioner Kimberly Overman in November. With all 124 precincts reporting, Michael Owens’ final margin of victory was 61.9% to 38.1% over Noelle Licor for the District 4 seat.

8:57 p.m.: Addressing supporters at a watch party in Orlando, Democratic nominee for Senate and U.S. Rep. Val Demings spoke about wanting to reduce gun violence, protect public education and the dignity of retired people.

“It’s about holding America to its promises,” she said. “The promise that every person, regardless of who they are, the color of their skin, how much money they might have in the bank, their sexual orientation, sexual identity or religion will have the opportunity to succeed in the country we call the greatest country in the world. I dream of that America.”

She added: “We’re not going back. There are women and men and people of all races and ages who suffered and bled and died for us to have the constitutional rights that we enjoyed. We’re not going back to be treated like second class citizens. We’re not going back to being treated like property. We will continue to fight and fight and fight.”

8:54 p.m.: Veteran congressman Vern Buchanan coasted to victory over challenger Martin Hyde in the Republican primary for Florida’s 16th Congressional District on Tuesday.

The Sarasota businessman received about 86% of votes in the district comprised of Manatee County and south Hillsborough County, his biggest ever primary win, according to his campaign team.

Buchanan, 71, has represented the district since 2013. He’ll face lone Democratic qualifier Jan Schneider and write-in candidate Ralph E. Hartman in the November general election.

8:52 p.m.: Businessman Brian Scott won the Pinellas County Commission District 2 Republican primary on Tuesday and now will try to defeat incumbent Pat Gerard in the fall to flip the board’s slim Democratic majority.

Republican Dave Eggers, meanwhile, will return for another term on the County Commission. And incumbents Lisa Cane and Caprice Edmond also easily retained their Pinellas County School Board seats.

Two open seats on that non-partisan board, however, will go to a runoff in the November general election. One will pit Keesha Benson, a leader of community social organizations, against Dawn Peters, an active school volunteer. The other will pit Brian Martin, a chemical engineer, against Stephanie Meyer, a teacher at a private Christian school and adjunct instructor at Hillsborough Community College.

Read the full story on these Pinellas County races here.

8:45 p.m.: In a vote that will have a long-lasting impact on Pasco County public schools, voters approved increasing their property taxes to boost salaries for district employees.

With most ballots tallied, the referendum received about 59% of the vote, which would levy a tax of up to $1 per $1,000 of taxable value.

“I am pleased the community understands the necessity for this and has responded,” United School Employees of Pasco president Don Peace said.

Click here for the full story.

8:42 p.m.: Bernard Fensterwald is celebrating his victory in the Democratic primary for House District 68 with campaign staff in Safety Harbor.

The district, which includes the cities of Clearwater, Indian Rocks Beach and Belleair Beach, was largely represented by outgoing state Rep. Chris Latvala.

“I was nervous. I think anybody who runs for office has got to be nervous,” said Fensterwald, 71. “I feel very relieved now.”

Fensterwald received 63% percent of the vote with all precincts reported, topping Joseph Saportas’s 37%.

The businessman said he’s ready to face off against Republican primary winner Kimberly Berfield in November.

“My message is let’s get things done, rather than argue about inconsequential things,” Fensterwald said. “I’m all about civility.”

Tommorrow, the work carries on. He’s meeting his campaign manager for breakfast at 8 a.m.

8:40 p.m.: The Associated Press has called the Republican primary for Tampa Bay’s newly redrawn U.S. House District 15 for Laurel Lee, a former Florida secretary of state who oversaw the 2020 elections. Lee had 41.5% of the vote as of 8:40 p.m., topping four other Republican candidates.

Democrat Alan Cohn was leading his primary with around 33% of the vote as of 8:30 p.m.

8:36 p.m.: Jim Boyd, 65, was reelected for a second term in the state Senate. Boyd won the universal primary election, where there is no Democrat challenging, representing parts of Manatee County and south Hillsborough County with 80% of the votes as of 8:30 p.m. Nearly all precincts had reported results.

Boyd ran against 75-year-old retiree John Houman, who had 20% of the total votes Tuesday night. Boyd is the CEO of Boyd Insurance & Investments and previously served four terms in the Florida House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018.

8:35 p.m.: Kevin M. Steele, 51, holds a strong lead in the Republican race for Pasco County’s House District 55. The health care technology company owner had 59% of tallied votes as of 8:20 p.m. Gabriel Papadopoulos, a 60-year-old New Port Richey pastor, is in second with 27% of the vote and U.S. Army veteran Brad Sollberger, 48, is last with 13% of the vote.

8:34: The Associated Press has called Florida’s 13th district Republican Primary for Anna Paulina Luna, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Luna had 44.3% of the vote as of 8:34 p.m., topping attorney Kevin Hayslett, strategist Amanda Makki, business owner Christine Quinn and law student Moneer Kheireddine.

8:32 p.m.: As of 8:14 p.m., Republican incumbent Lawrence McClure, 35, holds a hefty lead with 76% of precincts reporting for House District 68.

McClure, a lifelong resident of Hillsborough County, had 81% of the vote, while 65-year-old first-time candidate Paul Hatfield had 19%.The district spans the northeasternmost corner of Hillsborough County and includes Plant City.

A lifelong resident of Hillsborough County who now works in business consulting and real estate, McClure will face Democrat Lorissa Wright in November’s general election.

8:25 p.m.: Noting that “the stakes could not be any higher for this election,” Charlie Crist wasted no time calling out Gov. Ron DeSantis in his victory speech to supporters in St. Petersburg, saying he “only cares about the White House; he doesn’t care about your house.”

“Tonight the people of Florida clearly sent a message: They want a governor that cares about them,” Crist told supporters in his victory speech in St. Petersburg. “This guy wants to be president of the United States, make no mistake about it. When we defeat him on Nov. 8, that show is over.”

Crist said that if elected, he’d sign an executive order protecting a woman’s right to an abortion. He also said he’d restore recently ousted Hillsborough County state attorney Andrew Warren to his position.

“Don’t be fooled by the DeSantis propaganda machine,” Crist said. “He doesn’t promote freedom, he takes freedom away. We can put a stop to this wannabe dictator.”

8:19 p.m.: With about two-thirds of precincts reporting, Aramis Ayala leads Daniel Uhlfelder and Jim Lewis in the Democratic primary for attorney general, with about 43% of the vote.

Ayala, 47, became the state’s first Black state attorney when she was elected to oversee prosecutions in Orange and Osceola counties. She surprised supporters when, just two months into office, she announced she would not pursue the death penalty against any defendants, sparking a legal fight with then-Gov. Rick Scott.

8:13 p.m.: Kimberly Berfield, 51, has won the Republican primary for House District 58, earning 53% of the vote with all precincts reported as of 7:59 p.m. Berfield, who is the vice president of government affairs and community health for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, previously served in the Florida house from 2000 to 2006.

Jason Holloway, 30, earned 30% of the vote, while adjunct educator Jim Vricos earned 17%.

District 58 includes the cities of Clearwater, Indian Rocks Beach and Belleair Beach and was largely represented by outgoing state Rep. Chris Latvala, who endorsed Berfield prior to the primary.

In the Democratic primary for the same district, 71-year-old Bernard Fensterwald sailed to victory, earning 63% of the vote with 100% precincts reported by 7:59 p.m. Fensterwald is a multi-millionaire businessman, and knocked out 74-year-old opponent and businessman Joseph Saportas, who earned 37% of the vote.

8:11 p.m.: In Hillsborough County, it looks to be safe to call him Commissioner-elect Michael Owen. With 115 of 124 precincts reporting, the Republican attorney from Brandon led Noelle Licor 61.9% to 38.1% in the winner-take-all universal primary to succeed Commissioner Stacy White in District 4.

In the countywide District 7 race, Joshua Wostal lead Chase Harrison in the GOP primary 50.6% to 49.4% with 429 of 448 precincts reporting. Wostal’s lead is beyond the margin that would trigger an automatic recount. The winner faces Democratic incumbent Commissioner Kimberly Overman

8:09 p.m.: Now that polling has closed across Florida, the Associated Press is finally calling it: Wilton Simpson has won the Republican primary in the race to become Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner.

8:04 p.m.: In the end, it wasn’t close.

Charlie Crist, the veteran of Florida politics, defeated Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried by a healthy margin on Tuesday. The race was such a blowout, the Associated Press called it just after 8 p.m. eastern — when polls closed in the parts of Florida that fall in the central time zone.

Click here to read all about it.

8:03 p.m.: The Associated Press has called U.S. Rep. Val Demings as the winner of the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, with 85.5 percent of votes. Demings outspent all her opponents more than 170 to one, federal records show. The congresswoman raised at least $47.8 million before the primary — $34.8 million of that coming from individual donations of $200 or less. Before the race had been called by the Associated Press, the office of incumbent U.S. Senator Marco Rubio released a statement calling Demings a “Pelosi Puppet” and “radical rubber stamp.”

8:01 p.m.: With just over half the precincts reporting, Republican Laurel Lee and Democrat Alan Cohn have taken the lead for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, an open seat created during the once-a-decade redistricting process.

Lee is the former Florida secretary of state under DeSantis who oversaw the 2020 elections. Cohn is a former investigative journalist, who ran for Congress previously in 2020.

Five Republicans and five Democrats are running for Florida’s 15th district, which covers part of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties.

Among Republicans, Lee faced Sen. Kelli Stargel, Rep. Jackie Toledo, and U.S. Navy veterans Demetries Grimes and Kevin McGovern among Republicans. As of about 8 p.m., Lee had 43% of the vote. Stargel follows her with about 24% of the vote, then Toledo with 13%.

Cohn’s entry into the race came shortly before qualifying, but he received swift endorsements from area Democratic members of Congress, including Crist and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.

Among Democrats, Cohn has run against video producer Eddie Geller, strategist Gavin Brown, retired U.S. Postal Service worker Bill VanHorn and Cesar Ramirez, the president of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida. Cohn has about 35% of the results as of about 8 p.m.Brown follows him with about 22% of the vote and Geller shortly behind.

8 p.m.: Just minutes before the Associated Press is likely to make it official, Jordan Pride, Crist’s deputy political director, takes the microphone at the Crist watch party.

”I smell victory!” she says.

7:59 p.m.: With 98% of Pinellas County precincts reported, School Board incumbents Lisa Cane and Caprice Edmond have solid majorities. District 3 appears headed to a runoff between Keesha Benson and Dawn Peters, and Dist. 6 will see Stephanie Meyer and Brian Martin go head to head in November.

With three Pasco County precincts remaining, the results are pretty clear: The School property tax referendum has 59%, and school board incumbents appear headed back to the board. Megan Harding has 71.5%, and Cynthia Armstrong has 59%. In the open District 1 seat, Al Hernandez and James Washington appear headed to a runoff.

7:55 p.m.: Preliminary voting results out of Pasco County show Hernando County commissioner Jeff Holcomb, 51, leading in the Republican primary for state house District 53 with nearly 82% of early voting and mail ballots counted as of 7:20 p.m.

7:53 p.m.: Businesswoman Karen Gonzalez Pittman has pulled ahead in the Republican race for state house District 65 with 48.15% of tallied votes, according to preliminary counts of early voting and mail-in voting on Tuesday. Pittman, 60, was endorsed by state Rep. Jackie Toledo, who represents this area but is running for Congress. Businessman Jake Hoffman, 31, follows with 37.16% of votes and 47-year-old lawyer Michael Minardi, who made a name for himself in Florida as a major proponent for marijuana legalization, trails with 14.69%.

7:51 p.m.: Republican Danny Alvarez is cruising to victory Tuesday night, earning the chance to take on a sitting Democratic state representative in November.

Alvarez, 47, a lawyer, former sheriff’s official and long-time Republican political activist, was receiving 85% of the vote compared to his GOP opponent, anti-abortion activist Megan Angel Petty, 64, with 19 of 53 precincts reporting.

He now faces Democratic Rep. Andrew Learned for the southeast Hillsborough County seat.

7:48 p.m.: In Pasco County’s House District 56 race, Republican Brad Yeager pulled away from his two opponents, gathering 45.5% of the vote with all precincts reporting.

His two GOP opponents, retired law enforcement officer Scott Moore, 62, and University of South Florida student Jayden Cocuzza, 20, had 29% and 25%, respectively.

Yeager, a 46-year-old general manager of a vehicle auctions company, launched his campaign with the endorsements of several notable Pasco County politicos, including Senate President Wilton Simpson and county Tax Collector Mike Fasano.

No Democrat filed to run for the seat, so all registered voters were allowed to vote in the race. Yeager is now heading to Tallahassee.

7:47 p.m.: In the race for Hillsborough County Commission, Michael Owen increased his lead over Noelle Licor with 69 of 124 precincts reporting. Owen lead 61.7% to 38.3%. Owen appears headed to victory in the universal primary to succeed Commissioner Stacy White in District 4. In the countywide District 7 race, businessman Joshua Wostal maintained a slim lead over retired Tampa Police officer Chase Harrrison, 50.7% to 49.3% with 248 of the 448 precincts reporting.

7:46 p.m.: Republican incumbent Jim Boyd is taking the lead in the universal primary for State Senate District 20 with 80% of the votes as of 7:40 p.m., with 82 of 129 precincts reporting in Hillsborough and Manatee counties. He’s running against 75-year-old retiree John Houman from Thonotosassa. With no Democrats running in the race, Boyd is on the way to win a second-term in the Florida Senate.

7:45 p.m.: Minutes after calling the Agriculture Commissioner race for Wilton Simpson, the Associated Press has un-called the race. This could be because the race is statewide, and Florida’s panhandle polls close at 8 p.m.

7:45 p.m.: In a newly-drawn Tampa-based 14th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor won the Democratic primary with more than 90% of the vote in early voting. In the GOP primary, public-relations executive James Judge leads a three-way race with more than 50 percent of votes according to early returns.

7:42 p.m.: With 62% of precincts reporting, Berny Jacques, 35, a former prosecutor who is an executive at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay and sits on Florida’s 6th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission, appears to be coming out on top of the mid-Pinellas Republican primary Tuesday night with 49.9% of the vote.

Jacque bested Jennifer Wilson, 39, a business lawyer and past senior advisor to former local Republicans Jack Latvala, Victor Crist and Tom Lee. She is in second with 35.5% of the vote. Dipak Nadkarni, 62, a retired Navy physician, is trailing with 14.6% of the vote.

Jacques would face Democrat Dawn Douglas in the November general election.

7:39 p.m.: With mail-in and early voting counts in, Republican incumbent Lawrence McClure, 35, held a heavy lead in the primary for House District 68, which spans the northeastern-most corner of Hillsborough County and includes Plant City.

As of 7:30 p.m, McClure had 81% of the vote, while opponent and political newcomer Paul Hatfield, 65, had 19%.

7:38 p.m.: The Associated Press has called the Republican primary for Agriculture Commissioner for Wilton Simpson.

7:36 p.m.: With about 84% of precincts in Pinellas reporting, Anna Paulina Luna, who won the Republican primary in 2020, is leading among Republican candidates for Florida’s 13th district.

Luna has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump and a variety of conservative groups, including Turning Point Action and the House Freedom Fund. As of about 7:30 p.m., Luna had about 44% of the vote.

Five Republicans are running for Florida’s 13th district. Along with Luna, attorney Kevin Hayslett, strategist Amanda Makki, business owner Christine Quinn and law student Moneer Kheireddine campaigned for the seat.

Hayslett follows Luna with about 35% of the vote. He entered the race with an endorsement from Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. He later received endorsements from House Speaker Chris Sprowls, and shortly before the election, received an endorsement from former U.S. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

Makki ran for the seat in 2020 against Luna. As of about 7:30, she had 17% of the vote.

Florida’s 13th district covers most of Pinellas county, excluding the eastern part of St. Petersburg. After district boundaries were redrawn, the Democratic-leaning portion of the city was instead lumped in with part of Hillsborough county. The 13th district became more favorable for Republicans as a result.

But even prior to redistricting, national Republicans were eyeing Florida’s 13th district as a target seat in their quest to regain control of Congress. The seat is open because U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist ran for governor instead.

7:32 p.m.: In the Republican primary for agriculture commissioner, Wilton Simpson appears headed for an easy victory over James Shaw.

Simpson currently has 66% of the vote to Shaw’s 32%. Simpson had a considerable advantage in fundraising and support over Shaw, and those advantages will continue against the winner of tonight’s Democratic primary.

7:31 p.m.: With half of precincts reporting, Michele K. Rayner is still on the hunt for another term in the Florida Legislature.

Rayner, 40, the incumbent of District 70 — which was redrawn and renumbered this year to keep southern St. Petersburg but also includes only the east Hillsborough areas of East Tampa, Gibsonton and Riverview — survived a Democratic melee Tuesday night in a new district with 52.8% of the vote. She was challenged by her District 70 predecessor, Wengay Newton, 58, who came in second with 41.8%. Retired Marine and attorney Jesse Philippe, 34, finished last with 5.3% of the vote.

Rayner will now face Republican nominee and insurrectionist Jeremy M. Brown, who is currently in custody at the Pinellas County Jail on charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol.

7:27 p.m.: Veteran congressman Vern Buchanan is on track to win a ninth term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Sarasota businessman holds a commanding lead over challenger Martin Hyde in the GOP primary for Florida’s 16th Congressional District with a provisional count of early voting and mail-in ballots with Buchanan showing 87% of votes counted so far.

Buchanan has represented the district, which was redrawn this year to include southern Hillsborough and all of Manatee County, since 2013. He was first elected to Congress in 2006 and is widely tipped to become chair of the influential Ways and Means Committee if the Republican Party wins a majority in the House.

Hyde, who failed in two previous bids for the Sarasota City Commission, touted himself as being more Republican than his opponent, citing Buchanan’s support for gun control measures.

The British-born businessman hired Donald Trump aide Roger Stone as a campaign consultant for six months. He also released a video last week saying he would have he would have killed the FBI agents who searched former President Donald Trump’s property if they tried to do the same thing to his home, according to a report from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The video was later pulled from YouTube.

7:25 p.m.: The Associated Press has called the race for U.S. House District 14 for Rep. Kathy Castor, 55, who was first elected to Congress in 2006.

7:22 p.m.: In Hillsborough County, Stacy Hahn is well ahead of challenger Damaris Allen with 63% of the school board vote, but the night is young. Patti Rendon is leading the way in District 4, but is shy of the 51% she will need to avoid a runoff. And in the countywide District 6 race, Karen Perez so far has 55%. The nail-biter is the referendum on a new property tax for the schools. Early results show 52% are voting yes.

7:22 p.m.: Just minutes after polls closed Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis held a commanding enough lead over his four Republican challengers that the Associated Press called the race for District 12 in his favor.

The announcement was made just before 7:30 p.m. as mail in ballots and early returns continued to pour in across the newly redrawn district, which now includes Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties.

With 67% of precincts reporting, Bilirakis had clinched roughly 80 percent of the vote from his four Republican challengers, all white men from Pasco County. Behind Trump-endorsed Bilirakis, the second-highest tally went to Jack Martin, 70, a retired pastor and fire department chaplain from Spring Hill who claimed just under 9 percent of all ballots.

Chris Leiser, 44, a construction firm operator from New Port Richey, claimed just under 5% of votes while almost four percent went to Brian Perras, 45, a former actor who now works in real estate in Port Richey. The remaining 2.5 percent of votes were cast for Sid Preskitt, 71, who owns a commercial dive training business near his home in Hudson.

While several of the Republican challengers had launched unsuccessful political campaigns in years past, none have ever held public office apart from Bilirakis, 59.

Bilirakis served as a state representative in Florida’s 9th District from 2007 to 2013, when won election to the District 12 congressional seat vacated for the first time in 24 years when his father, Mike Bilirakis, retired. The younger Bilirakis has now spent 9 years in his father’s old Congressional seat.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary will go on to face Democrat Kimberly Walker, a Treasury Department contractor and U.S. Army and Air Force veteran, in the Nov. 8 general election. Walker faced no opposition in the primary.

U.S. representatives are elected to two-year terms and are paid $174,000 annually.

7:18 p.m.: Early tallies in the votes for the District 2 seat on the Pasco County Commission showed Seth Weightman in the lead to replace Mike Moore, who chose to not seek a third term on the board.

In second in the earliest batch of voting results announced shortly after polls closed was Christie Zimmer followed by Troy Stevenson.

Pasco County Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick could end her tenure with just two years in the District 4 commission seat, according to preliminary vote counts of early voting and mail-in voting.

With some election day ballots yet counted, challenger Gary Bradford held a significant lead over Fitzpatrick for the seat.

The third Republican in the primary race, Shannon Wittwer, was a distant third in the early count.

7:16 p.m.: With 37% of votes in, U.S. Rep. Val Demings is far ahead of the other candidates in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, with 86.8% of votes. The next closest candidate, Brian Rush, had 5.5% of the votes shortly after 7 p.m.

7:15 p.m.: Brandon attorney Michael Joseph Owen grabbed the early lead in the race to become the newest member of the Hillsborough County Commission in the District 4 contest.

Owen led Noelle Licor, a small business owner and chairperson of the county’s Citizens Advisory Committee, 60% to 40% with early and mail ballots counted in the winner-take-all Republican primary.

Owen, 47, seeks to succeed Commissioner Stacy White, who must leave office after the November general election because of term limits.

Michael Owen, a Republican District 4 Hillsborough County Commission candidate, holds a sign promoting his campaign outside the Palmetto Club at FishHawk Ranch during the primary election on Tuesday.
Michael Owen, a Republican District 4 Hillsborough County Commission candidate, holds a sign promoting his campaign outside the Palmetto Club at FishHawk Ranch during the primary election on Tuesday. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]

District 4, located primarily in eastern and fast-growing southern Hillsborough, faces strains on its road network, school and public safety services because of rapid growth. Both candidates said the lack of infrastructure was the top issue facing the district.

In the countywide Republican primary for the District 7 commission seat, Joshua Wostal, 38, held a slim lead over fellow first-time candidate Chase Harrison, 50.7% to 49.3%, with early and mail ballots being reported. The winner faces Democratic incumbent Commissioner Kimberly Overman in November.

7:13 p.m.: Early votes for Pasco school district elections are tallied. Historically, the percentages don’t veer much. So far, it shows the tax referendum with 61% passing, board incumbents Megan Harding and Cynthia Armstrong ahead comfortably, and the District 1 race with no one over 50%.

In Pinellas County, early results show Caprice Edmond and Lisa Cane are well on their way to keeping their School Board seats. Cane has 57% in a three-way race; Edmonds has 68% over challenger Maria Solanki.

There’s no clear cut leader in the early balloting for the two open seats on the Pinellas County School Board. If the numbers hold, each race would go to a November runoff.

7:06 p.m.: We have early results out of Broward County, and they are not good for Nikki Fried. She’s down nearly 40,000 votes. No precincts have reported yet so those are early voting results and mail-in ballots.

Pinellas County is even better for Crist. He’s ahead another 34,000 votes there, having gotten more than 72% of the reported votes there. Again, no primary day votes in this batch, but in the blink of an eye, Fried is down nearly 75,000 votes.

Hillsborough, similar story. Crist is up another 23,000 votes there. Again, the reported votes are mail-in ballots and ballots cast in person early.

Fried isn’t losing by quite as much in Duval County, but she’s still losing by more than 3,000 votes. Crist would need an extraordinarily bad set of primary day results to lose the race at this point.

7:05 p.m.: More than half a million Tampa Bay residents had voted by the time polls closed Tuesday, according to unofficial figures from elections offices in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties.

They make up some 27% of the more than 2 million registered voters across the region. Pinellas led the way in turnout, with more than 31% of registered voters casting ballots. Hillsborough and Pasco lagged behind, with each close to 25%.

Related: Here's what voters around Tampa Bay said about Tuesday's primary

Those numbers were all consistent with primary turnout in 2018 and 2020. Turnout for Tuesday’s election leaned more Republican across the three counties than in 2020 — when Democrats had to decide who would face incumbent President Donald Trump — but the partisan proportions were close to what they were in the 2018 primary.

7 p.m.: Polls have officially closed in Tampa Bay, so early results should be trickling in shortly. Precincts in Florida’s westernmost panhandle, of course, still have another hour to go.

6:50 p.m.: Our live results tracker for races across Tampa Bay and Florida is now up and running. Click here for race-by-race results as they come in from local elections offices in Hillsborough, Pinellas and more Tampa Bay counties.

Related: Florida, local primary election results: governor, county races, more

6:40 p.m.: At Charlie Crist’s watch party in downtown St. Petersburg, the Florida press corps appears to have made a prediction about the outcome of the Democratic primary. More than a dozen television stations just wrapped up their 6 p.m. hits.

Volunteers at Charlie Crist's primary night watch party in downtown St. Petersburg on Tuesday handed out yellow bracelets espousing his stance as a pro-decency candidate. The bracelets say, "Practice the GOLDEN RULE every day!"
Volunteers at Charlie Crist's primary night watch party in downtown St. Petersburg on Tuesday handed out yellow bracelets espousing his stance as a pro-decency candidate. The bracelets say, "Practice the GOLDEN RULE every day!" [ KIRBY WILSON | Tampa Bay Times ]

Crist volunteers are already trying to set the tone of the general, when their candidate will try to convince voters he’s the pro-decency candidate. They’re handing out yellow bracelets that say “Practice the GOLDEN RULE every day!”

So far, Crist’s watch party has played “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen and a cut from the new Harry Styles album. Multigenerational DJ’ing by team Crist.

6:30 p.m.: We’re about 30 minutes from primary polls closing across most of Florida, which means it’s almost time for counties to start counting votes.

Which Democrat will emerge to take on Gov. Ron DeSantis in November’s general election, Rep. Charlie Crist or Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried?

Who will Republican and Democratic voters pick to run for redrawn congressional seats spanning Tampa Bay?

And will Hillsborough and Pasco county voters approve property tax increases to fund teacher salaries and other school costs?

These are only a few of the issues at stake on what’s likely to be one of the most-watched primary days in Florida history. We’re following races around the region and state all night, and are poised to bring you the latest results right here. Whether you’re following the balance of power in Congress and the Senate, or you’re keeping tabs on local school board and county commission races, we’ll be posting updates as they happen.

Keep checking back here for the latest.

Times staff writers Barbara Behrendt, Bernadette Berdychowski, C.T. Bowen, Anastasia Dawson, Romy Ellenbogen, Jack Evans, Charlie Frago, Olivia George, Divya Kumar, Tracey McManus, Lawrence Mower, Chris O’Donnell, Lauren Peace, Marlene Sokol, Jeffrey S. Solochek, Dan Sullivan, Langston Taylor, Kirby Wilson and Colleen Wright contributed to this report.

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the elections in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription. Or click here to make a donation to the Tampa Bay Times Journalism Fund.

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