The three Republicans running in Tuesdays primary have been eclipsed by Alex Sink, the strongest candidate Democrats could have mustered in the race. Big-name Republicans like Jeff Brandes, Jack Latvala and Will Weatherford went out of their way to stay out of the race, leaving the field to Mark Bircher, David Jolly and Kathleen Peters.
Jolly is, on paper, the front-runner though special primary elections can often produce surprises. Still, Jolly should be ahead. He has the most cash and has been the most active candidate in hitting the airwaves. Polls, always a tricky thing in a low turnout election as expected on Tuesday, show Jolly out front.
Its been easy to overlook the primary candidates. There have been some clashes between the candidates but most of the focus has been on the strange and bitter divide in Youngs family with his widow backing Jolly and his son and namesake standing behind Peters. Jolly has called into question Peters record on abortion and she has responded by hitting his lobbying ties, including an ineffective insistence that he lobbied for Obamacare.
While the NRCC has gone all out to attack Sink, Republicans are feeling pessimistic about their chances of holding this seat. Part of it comes from their field of second-tier candidates, with Jolly and Bircher being electoral newcomers while Peters is serving in her first term in the state House.
Democrats are also gaining traction in the area and Young was often the strongest Republican in the area. Barack Obama edged out Mitt Romney here in 2012 and Rick Kriseman defeated the Republican mayor of St. Petersburg back in November.
Sink has a tendency to blow big moments, such as when she broke the rules during a debate with Rick Scott during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign and looked at a smart phone in the middle of the contest. The NRCC and other Republican groups are already attacking Sink for her record in Tallahassee as state CFO.
But Sink starts out as the favorite no matter who emerges on Tuesday. Democrats and Republicans will certainly try to portray the March contest as a bellwether for the November congressional contests and Scotts attempt to win a second term. The March election simply wont be as low-key as Tuesdays primary since the stakes will be high.
Tallahassee based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.