FROM WIRE AND STAFF REPORTS
More than 1 million votes were cast in Florida’s early voting or turned in by absentee ballots this year, state officials said Tuesday. The total is up 350,000 over 2008, despite five fewer days of early voting.
With just one statewide race on the ballot – the U.S. Senate seat – turnout was low, as it typically is in primaries. The primary in 2010 drew 22 percent of voters and 2008 brought out just 18 percent.
Tuesday’s turnout in counties in which the Florida Courier is circulated was as follows: Miami-Dade, 20 percent; Broward, 10.7 percent; Palm Beach, no data; St. Lucie, 22.6 percent; Orange, 17.6 percent; Volusia, 24.5 percent; Hillsborough, 15.8 percent; Pinellas, 23.3 percent; Duval, 20.5 percent.
Nelson, Mack set
Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Mack cruised to easy wins Tuesday in their respective primaries setting up what will be a crucial matchup in November for the makeup of the U.S. Senate.
While Nelson, 69, is often thought of as a low-profile member of the Senate, Democrats have a four to six-seat advantage in the chamber, depending on the votes of two independents, and the Florida race is one of several where Republicans have hopes of a pick-up that could flip control of the chamber.
Nelson was elected to the Senate in 2000, but has held some political office in Florida for 40 years.
Murphy faces West
Democratic hopeful Patrick Murphy will face off against Republican incumbent Allen West, a Tea Party favorite who’s raised millions in campaign contributions from around the country in the race for Congressional District 18 in South Florida.
Freshman Congresswoman Frederica Wilson will return to Washington, D.C. for a second term after defeating challenger Rudy Moise, 68 percent to 32 percent. Wilson’s margin cemented the Democrat’s return to Congress, a spot she won in 2010 in an open seat race. There is no Republican or other party candidate.
Lawson in Congress?
Former State Sen. Al Lawson of Tallahassee will square off against Republican incumbent Steve Southerland after Lawson defeated state House Rep. Leonard Bembry of Greenville in the Democratic primary for Congressional District 2 in Northwest Florida.
Florida Legislature races
Most Black incumbents fared well during the primary. State Representatives Alan Williams, Rep. Reggie Fullwood, Dwayne L. Taylor, Darryl Rouson, Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, and Hazelle P. Rogers qualified for office in June without opposition and will serve additional two-year terms.
In contested races, Democratic State Representatives Betty Reed, Joseph Gibbons, and Cynthia A. Stafford were elected to additional two-year terms.
Rep. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, won a crowded primary for the Senate seat vacated by his mother, Sen. Larcenia Bullard, who is stepping aside because of term limits. Bullard defeated four opponents, including a House leader and a former lawmaker.
Rep. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando defeated Victoria Siplin with almost 56 percent of the vote. Siplin is the wife of State Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando. Both Thompson and Bullard face token Republican opposition in heavily Democratic districts.
Rep. Mack Bernard of West Palm Beach lost closely to Rep. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth in the Democratic primary for Senate District 27 in South Florida. Clemens is likely to win election in November, as no other candidate will appear on the ballot.
In Democratic primaries, Bobby Powell won in House District 88, Shevrin D. Jones won in House District 101, Randolph Bracy III won in House District 54, and Bruce Antone won in House District 46.
Fort Pierce businessman Larry Lee, Jr. beat former Rep. Adam Fetterman, D-Fort Pierce, in his bid to return to the House. Lee won nearly 53 percent of the vote in District 84. Lee will face Fort Pierce Republican Michelle Miller in November in the St. Lucie County district.
Alachua Democrat Clovis Watson, Jr., cruised to a win Tuesday in a primary in House District 20, likely clearing the way for him to go to Tallahassee. Watson received nearly 56 percent of the votes in the race against Marihelen Wheeler of Gainesville. Watson faces only a write-in candidate in the November general election.
Incumbent Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings won his Democratic primary with 81 percent of the vote.
Incumbent Barbara Jordan beat Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson 59.1 to 34.7 percent to stay on the Miami-Dade County Commission, in a local election made notable when billionaire auto dealer Norman Braman supported and help fund a slate of four candidates who targeted incumbents. (All four, including Gibson, lost.)
Miami-Dade voters voted to keep their ban on owning pit bull dogs, 63 percent to 34 percent.
David Royse of the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.