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Nancy Smith

Low Turnout Aside, Charlie Crist the Easy Democratic Primary Winner

August 25, 2014 - 6:00pm

Charlie Crist, man without a party less than 25 months ago and a "Reagan Republican" in 2010, handily won the Democratic primary for governor Tuesday, defeating lifelong Democrat Nan Rich of Weston 3-to-1 in virtually every corner of the state.

Before addressing his supporters, Crist immediately released an email to Florida Democrats:

"Tonight I am honored to be the Democratic nominee for governor of the great state of Florida. Because of your time and generosity, we're going to take on Rick Scott on November 4th. And if we do our jobs right, when the sun rises on November 5th, it'll shed light on a Florida full of opportunity for our kids, our businesses, and our families.

"For the next 70 days, we have to tell Floridians what that sunny future looks like. Tomorrow, we're going to hit the ground running. We have money to raise and doors to knock on -- we have to put the people back in charge again. ... Thank you and God bless you."

There was some bad news for Crist among the good, according to one political analyst: low voter turnout, particularly in the Democrat-rich South Florida counties of Palm Beach (10.1 percent), Broward (8.16 percent) and Miami-Dade (11.27 percent). In fact, statewide, some 116,060 more Republicans than Democrats voted in Tuesday's primary.

"Democrats still have a lot of work to do ahead of November to get voters down there to the polls," said retired professor and analyst Gerald Antilocke. "They pulled it off for Obama, but Crist who is very moderate among his new friends might be a tougher sell to the base. This turnout doesn't exactly exude enthusiasm for Crist.

"Rich still came away with more than 25.83 percent. That's not strong, but she turned in a respectable performance," Antilocke told Sunshine State News. "She got the maverick vote."

Rich's supporters say although their candidate had been in the race for more than two years, she had little help from party leaders, who never encouraged her, were influential in denying her Emily's List support, openly urged her to fold her campaign and refused to set up a debate between her and Crist.

She and her supporters were watching the results Tuesday night at Bonaventure Country Club in Weston.

Crist's win is unlikely to provide him with a momentum burst headed into the stretch, considering it came as no surprise and Crist himself has made the race between himself and Republican Gov. Rick Scott from the start.

Scott's victory against two unknowns Tuesday was far easier. The primary is unlikely to change the strategy of either candidate, both in full attack mode, in what is predicted to be the most expensive race in the nation.

Libertarian Adrian Wyllie who has generated buzz of his own since the beginning of the year is likely to affect November results, too. But it is too early to tell by how much.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter @NancyLBSmith

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