Many bloggers have posted their thoughts on the primary election results last night, but we at State of Sunshine decided to wait until the day after to allow for some perspective.
Here are our thoughts.
Welcome to Ground Zero
The State of Sunshine had previously commented that the epicenter of the 2006 elections would fall squarely in Tampa Bay. And the primary elections helped to solidify that. Starting with the obvious Charlie Crist vs Jim Davis for governor, you add Tom Lee vs Alex Sink, and Katherine Harris statewide headquarters – fully half of all major party statewide candidates call Tampa Bay home.
Next there are three open Congressional seats: District 9 pits Gus Bilirakis (R) against Phyllis Busansky (D), District 11 has Kathy Castor (D) against long-shot Eddie Adams (R), and District 13 will be Vern Buchanan (R) against Christine Jennings (D). Only District 22 in South Florida could draw more attention than 9 and 13 this year, especially given recent reports that the Democrats are poised to take back the U.S. House of Representatives.
Finally, at the state level, the Bay area has two state senate seats and several open state house seats that will draw both parties here. In District 10, Stephen Gorham (D) has a long uphill climb against Ronda Storms (R). Meanwhile, in District 16, Charlie Justice (D) will face Kim Berfield (R) in what could be the most watched state senate race in Florida; the Republican party has already run commercials against Justice, while the Democratic party sent mailers opposing Berfield.
The open house seats in Pinellas could give the Democrats their first gains in more than two decades. In District 48, Peter Nehr (R) will face Carl Zimmerman (D). In 50, Ed Hooper (R) will face Candice Jovan (D). In 51, Janet Long (D) will go against Dottie Reeder (R). In 52, Angelo Capelli (R) will go against Bill Heller (D). In 53, Richard Kriseman (D) will face Thomas Piccolo (R). Lastly, in District 54, Jim Frishe (R) is pitted against Betsy Valentine (D). Expect a lot of people scouring the county knocking on doors for these candidates.
Former Legislative Aides
At least two candidates for state representative are former legislative aides in the Florida legislature. In District 51, Bruce Cotton, who most recently worked for Represenatative Leslie Waters, was unsuccessful in his race against Dottie Reeder. In District 90, Kelly Skidmore, former aide to Senator Ron Klein, was able to win a close four-way primary. The one win, one loss is about par for the course when legislative staffers run for office.
Jeb Bush 1 for 3
In Republican primaries, Governor Jeb Bush made three official endorsements: Tom Lee for CFO, Frank Bolaños for State Senate District 38, and Robert Fernandez for State House District 107. Only Lee was able to win the primary, which is more surprising given that Jeb, Bolaños and Fernandez are from Miami-Dade County.
Most people thought Crist would win, but it would be a lot closer than most polls. Who really could have predicted a 30+ point victory? The weather in South Florida may have had some effect, but Crist was winning there by very strong margins (30% in Miami-Dade, 35% in Palm Beach County, and 42% in Broward) so rain had little effect. In fact, Gallagher only managed to win six counties: Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Union, and Washington. State of Sunshine pondered just how conservative Repbublican primary voters really are, and it would appear that the election results bear that out.
State Senators Jim King and Alex Villalobos, along with State Representatives Richard Machek, Matt Meadows, and Michael Grant all won their respective races. Villalobos was surprising as he was the target of significant spending, including as much as $6 million in independent expenditures according to news reports, and the endorsement of his opponent (Bolanos) by Governor Bush.
Women Carry Judicial Races
In the Bay area, women candidates for circuit and county judge did very well. Only Catherine Real and Susan Schwartz were unable to win or force a run-off election, because they challenged incumbent judges. In every other race where at least one woman ran against at least one man for judge, a woman or women either won the race outright or forced a run off at the general election.
The next 62 days are going to be interesting indeed.