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Crist makes Florida comeback bid as 4 states vote



BY BRENDAN FARRINGTON

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - If there were any doubts that former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist would be accepted by Florida Democrats, they were cast aside as he overwhelmingly earned the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott on a day when four states chose candidates for statewide office.

Crist easily defeated former state Sen. Nan Rich on Tuesday, while Scott coasted in his own primary toward a general election matching the state's last two Republican governors. It's a contest that's already been brutally negative with Scott spending millions on ads attacking Crist since he announced in November that he was seeking his old job with his new party.

"It's unbelievable! What is it, $30 million in trash talk? Oh my gosh!" Crist said after he was declared the primary winner. "Floridians are smart and fortunately we know each other. I've been their governor before, I've been their attorney general, their commissioner of education, a state senator from Tampa Bay. We have a relationship and this new guy who came in from Texas a few years ago is trying to say things about me that aren't true."

In Arizona, State Treasurer and former CEO Doug Ducey won the Republican gubernatorial primary, riding to victory with a campaign that focused on his blend of government and business experience in serving as a state official and building an ice cream company into a national brand.

The race to replace Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, began as a fairly quiet contest focused on health care and jobs before shifting abruptly when thousands of immigrant children began pouring into the country and some settled in the state.

In the quest for right-leaning Republican primary voters, the six candidates quickly staked out hard-line positions on immigration and repeatedly attacked the Obama administration for failing to secure the border.

The crowded primary was a test of Brewer's strength. She endorsed former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. Democrat Fred DuVal was unopposed in his primary and will face Ducey in November.

Vermont Republicans nominated businessman Scott Milne over three other candidates to face Democratic incumbent Peter Shumlin, who also leads the Democratic Governors Association. Other statewide offices, including an at-large House seat, also are on the ballot.

Oklahoma Democrats chose state Sen. Connie Johnson as their Senate nominee over perennial candidate Jim Rogers. Johnson will be a general election underdog against Rep. James Lankford for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Tom Coburn.

Unofficial returns in Florida, with 99.9 precincts reporting, showed Crist with a nearly 3-to-1 lead over Rich, who had been campaigning for governor longer than Crist has been a Democrat. Crist was heavily favored, but it was important for him to post a wide margin to demonstrate that his new party has embraced him four years after he lost a Senate race to Republican Marco Rubio. Crist was an independent then.

His partisan whipsawing in the past, Crist was immediately praised Tuesday night by the leader of his new party. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, led a chant of "Charlie! Charlie!" during his victory party.

"Voters can see that there's only one candidate for Florida who shares their priorities and it is the next governor of the great state of Florida - Charlie Crist!" Wasserman Schultz told a packed room. "Elect the people's governor! On to victory for Charlie Crist!"

Democrats view the seat as a key pickup opportunity in a state President Barack Obama won twice.

Crist, 58, previously won three statewide races as a GOP candidate, and it wasn't that long ago that he called himself a Ronald Reagan/Jeb Bush Republican. He was once considered a potential running mate for 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain and had the backing of GOP leaders in a 2010 bid for Senate - until Rubio used an image of Crist hugging Obama to chase Crist from the primary. Crist then ran as an independent, but he ended up a distant second. In 2012, he endorsed Obama for a second term.

Scott, 61, who had minor primary opposition, has already spent millions of dollars on ads criticizing Crist and pointing out how he has changed from opposing to supporting same-sex marriage, gun control and Obama's health care plan.

A Crist vs. Scott general election matchup would be sure to feature a high-profile debate over Obama's health care overhaul. Pressured by Republican legislators, Scott abandoned an initial call to expand Medicaid under the Democratic law. Crist has blasted the decision and, unlike many Democrats on the ballot this year, is an unapologetic cheerleader for the Affordable Care Act.

Crist now has to make sure he locks in those Democrats who have been skeptical of his conversion. Even some of Crist's supporters indicated their vote was more about beating Scott than supporting Crist.

"I like Nan Rich, but I didn't want to waste my vote," 65-year-old Lavon Wright said outside a Gainesville precinct. "I think Crist can beat the current governor."

In Oklahoma, some Democratic voters said their Senate runoff was likely a futile exercise.

Phil Defree, 64, a retired civil servant in central Oklahoma, voted for Johnson but said he had no expectations that Democrats can defeat Lankford in a state where Obama failed to win a single county in either of his national victories.

"Oh, no! Not in Oklahoma. I'm a realist," Defree said.

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Dennis August 27 2014 at 2:16 PM

Just what this lame brained state needs. a democrat as governor. What a joke.

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6 replies
Welcome Don August 27 2014 at 2:20 PM

More proof just how damn stupid the democrats are ! Crist did absolutely Nothing for Florida when he was the gov. Just look to the white house the idiots start from the top down.

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1 reply
Mike Welcome Don August 27 2014 at 3:28 PM

AMEN, under Charlie boy, jobs were lost and the state went downhill fast. Why do they never learn?? Maybe too much welfare and now not as much as when he was around. Those votes would be enough to put this welfare supportive pol back in and FL downward again

Flag Reply +1 rate up
uriahheep7275 August 27 2014 at 2:14 PM

Both parties leave a lot to be desired.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
2 replies
lightyrs1 uriahheep7275 August 27 2014 at 2:15 PM

I agree!

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Tom P uriahheep7275 August 27 2014 at 3:03 PM

the lessor of 2 evils?

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jay love August 27 2014 at 2:25 PM

according to the news last night Scott won over a half million Rep. votes statewide his first election and won office, last night he brought in well over 700,000 votes and won the primary easily. Florida is for the most part a Republican state so I just do not see ole Flip-Flopper Charlie beating out Rick Scott who may not be flamboyant, but he is what he always has been a solid Republucan sho has done everything he said he would do and more for the state and has 100 million of his own dollars to run on?

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5 replies
jay love August 27 2014 at 2:22 PM

This article as does every other main stream media article attempts to show Charley Christ's win against Nan Rich as some sign he can win against Scott. I don't think he can. Christ, whom I liked for years when he was himself and a Republican has gone from a failed and tainted leader of his party to an Independant, and now onward hoo to re-inventing himself as a Democrat? all those things he stood for and voted for in the past he now has suddenly flip-flopped on to get the DNC support and money? beating nan Rich a little known Dem senator does not equate to being able to beat Rick Scott with his unlimited personal fortune. and besides Scott may not be a charismatic, good looking guy but he has been a good steward of Florida since he last won and has kept every promise he made, has brought the state to financial solvency, cut taxes and fees for the average little Floridian and generally been a good governor! I voted for him last time and will again.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
4 replies
leslie August 27 2014 at 5:06 PM

Guess the democrats are dumber than I thought! lol This guy can't figure out if he is straight republican, switch hitter independent or gay democrat! wtf is wrong with you people?

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1 reply
vinkbear leslie August 27 2014 at 8:18 PM

Do you feel threatened by a gay democrat governor, leslie, or strangely aroused?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
davefromfwb1 August 27 2014 at 2:44 PM

I don't need my home owners insurance to increase another 300% if Crist gets re-elected. This fool allowed the insurance companies to increase 300%-600% and he sat around and did nothing. Rick Scott has done everything he said he was going to do....he's reduced the debt...told Obama where to stuff it and has reduced federal governments involvement in the state of Florida. I'm all for reduced governement, he also cut red tape for business owners and I like that too. We don't need a guy (Crist) that pays more attention to his suits and his tan than he does caring for people who need jobs.

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Mike August 27 2014 at 3:25 PM

Crist is AWFUL. He'll be in any party where he believes he can win. He has no ethics nor consistency. He is an example of what politics has become--unfounded and self-serving.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
vinkbear Mike August 27 2014 at 8:20 PM

Kind of like that guy that lost in Mass so he moved to another state to run. You know, the male prostit....... er, I mean male model......

Flag Reply 0 rate up
kariewcpa August 27 2014 at 3:20 PM

Got to say,as a former Floridian, Crist was a better governor than Scott. That is not saying much since Scott has been the worst thing to happen to Florida since the triplets and Ivan o 2004. I think he can beat Scott in November--party doesn't matter.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
3 replies
davefromfwb1 August 27 2014 at 2:37 PM

What a whimpy douche this Crist guy is. Fake tan just like Boener whimp.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
Fishgirl davefromfwb1 August 27 2014 at 2:53 PM

Fake tan. Fake man.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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