WASHINGTON (AP) — Tuesday’s primary elections feature two top Florida Democrats squaring off for the chance to face Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a rising conservative star frequently mentioned as a top alternative to Donald Trump in the 2024 GOP presidential contest.
What to watch:
Once the nation’s largest swing state, Florida has trended more Republican in recent years. Trump won it twice, and the GOP’s domination of the Legislature has given DeSantis a national platform to carry out a brash brand of culture war politics that’s delighted big GOP donors and sparked speculation he’ll run for president.
State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who was once governor himself as a Republican, are vying for the Democratic nomination to compete against DeSantis in November. Fried, the only statewide-elected Democrat, has sought to portray Crist as a Democrat in name only. She’s highlighted Crist’s former anti-abortion stance and his appointment of conservative state Supreme Court justices. Crist has dismissed Fried’s criticisms as last-ditch efforts to counter his stouter fundraising and high-profile endorsements.
In the U.S. Senate race, Tuesday’s primary is expected to cement a general election matchup between incumbent Republican Marco Rubio and Democratic congresswoman Val Demings, who is giving up her Orlando-based seat.
Meanwhile, hotly contested primaries stem from the departure of four House members, the acquisition of a new congressional district thanks to Florida’s booming population, and new maps drawn by DeSantis’ office that could boost Republicans even further.
One of the House’s most controversial members, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, is facing a strong primary challenge from Mark Lombardo, a former Marine and former FedEx executive who has run a series of ads attacking Gaetz for being under federal investigation in a sex trafficking case. Gaetz has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.
Running for the Democratic nomination for Gaetz’s seat is Rebekah Jones, a former Department of Health employee who received national attention after she questioned the state’s COVID-19 dashboard and claimed Florida wasn’t reporting accurate numbers — an allegation that an inspector general’s report said was unfounded. Jones is facing Peggy Schiller, a local Democratic Party activist.