Primary Day Ends with Surprises

posted by Alan McBride - 

Florida voters went to the polls Tuesday to decide who will represent their various parties in November, as well as to weigh in on a host of local issues. 

The polls closed at 7PM local time, which meant that numbers for contests with a statewide impact weren't released until polls closed in Florida's panhandle, which is largely on Central Time.

The U.S. Senate contest, between incumbent Bill Nelson and Governor Rick Scott, saw Scott defeat a challenge from contender Rocky De La.Nelson was unopposed in the primary.

The governor's race, on the other hand, was the statewide race which was watched most closely and which was, at times, a nail-biter.

On the Democratic side of the ticket, it was a night of upsets as front-runner Gwen Graham lost a narrow contest to Andrew Gillum.

Until recently, polls had placed Gillum as a contender with little hope for success. A late surge changed his fortunes.

The Republican race saw congressman Ron DeSantis pull ahead of Adam Putnam, thanks to an endorsement from Donald Trump. Moments after the polls closed, the governor's primary was called in favor of DeSantis, making it the earliest call of the night and an upset for veteran Adam Putnam.

Putnam, a former congressman and Florida's Agriculture Commissioner, had worked hard throughout the campaign to remind GOP voters of his conservative credentials and had said he was the only Republican who could defeat any candidate the Democrats would field.

The race for Florida Attorney General pitted former Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Ashley Moody against Pensacola State Representative Frank White for the GOP bid, and the early returns showed Moody taking and holding a strong lead.  

On the Democratic side of the ticket, Tampa State Representative Sean Shaw ran to an early lead against lawyer and University of Tampa grad Ryan Torrens.  

The race for Agriculture Commissioner didn't lack for any contenders. Nikki Fried took the lead for the Democrats, while Matt Caldwell appeared to take the Republican bid.

Congressional races also featured prominently on the ballot.

In District Fifteen, three Democrats and six Republicans ran to succeed Republican Dennis Ross, who's retiring.  

District Three Congressman Ted Yoho sprinted to an early lead, and victory, against challenger Judson Sapp in the Republican primary.  

In District Six, where incumbent Ron DeSantis stood down in order to challenge Adam Putnam for the governor's race, three Republicans and three Democrats were on the ticket to see who would take up the November challenge.

Three Democratic incumbents also faced primary challengers.  

In District Seven, Chardo Richardson ran against incumbent Stephanie Murphy, but that race saw Murphy take an early and commanding lead. 

In District 9, incumbent Darren Soto squared off against former congressman Alan Grayson and also scored one of Tuesday evening's early victories.

In the District Ten race, incumbent Val Demings ran to an early lead against Wade Darius.  

In the Seventeenth District, three Republicans and two Democrats were on the ticket for their respective parties. The primary winners will face each other in November to see who will get the post of retiring congressman Tom Rooney.

Orange County voters chose Jerry Demings to be the next Orange County Mayor. Demings handily beat fellow candidates Rob Panepinto and Pete Clarke to succeed Teresa Jacobs.  

Voters in some counties across the state were asked to decide whether to approve a tax hike that would fund increased school security.  

The tax hike issues gained substantial attention because of the Parkland shooting earlier this year.

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