House Incumbents Hold On in Florida Primary Races

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- All seven incumbent U.S. House members in Florida who drew primary opposition won their races Tuesday, with only Rep. Allen Boyd having a close call.

Also, in South Florida state Sen. Federica Wilson of Miami Gardens defeated eight Democratic opponents including four candidates running to become the first Haitian-American elected to Congress.

In central Florida's 8th District, former Florida House Speaker and ex-Senate Majority Leader Daniel Webster won a seven-way race for the Republican nomination and a chance in November to unseat outspoken freshman Rep. Alan Grayson. The Orlando Democrat, unopposed in the primary, is one of the GOP's top targets nationally.

Boyd, also on the GOP hit list in the Panhandle's 2nd District, won by just under three percentage points with 98 percent of the expected votes counted in his primary race against Florida Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson of Tallahassee. Panama City funeral home owner Steve Southerland defeated four other Republicans and will take on Boyd, a seven-term veteran from Monticello, in November.

Incumbent Democratic Reps. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, Kathy Castor of Tampa and Suzanne Kosmas of New Smyrna Beach and Ron Klein of Boca Raton won their races. Reps. Cliff Stearns of Ocala and Vern Buchanan of Sarasota, the only sitting Republicans with primary challengers, both were early winners.

All of those incumbents also are facing general election opposition.

At least a half-dozen tea party activists were on the primary ballot but all lost or were losing.

Several primary races attracted multiple candidates, none more than in the 17th District, where the four Haitian-American candidates were trying to make history.

Haitian-American physician Rudy Moise of North Miami came in second to Wilson. The other Haitian-American candidates were state Rep. Yolly Roberson and her ex-husband, former Rep. Phillip Brutus, and women's activist Marleine Bastien of Miami.

The crowded field sought the seat being given up by Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami, who won the Democratic primary the U.S. Senate. Others running included Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson and state Rep. James Bush.

No Republican is running, but independent Roderick Vereen, a Miami lawyer, will oppose the Democratic nominee in November.

Meek's seat is one of five vacancies in Florida's 25-member House delegation although one is spoken for. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is giving up his 25th District seat but already has been elected without opposition in the nearby 21st District where his older brother, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, is retiring. Both brothers are Miami Republicans.

Democrats are targeting the younger Diaz-Balart's old seat. Former Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee chairman Joe Garcia, who polled 47 percent there in a loss two years ago, won his primary. State Rep. David Rivera took the Republican nomination.

Hernando County Sheriff Jim Nugent defeated tea party activist Jason Sager in the Republican primary for the seat being vacated by Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, in north-central Florida.

Some potential candidates may have stayed out of the 5th District race because Brown-Waite didn't announce her retirement and endorsement of Nugent as her replacement until the last day of qualifying. The GOP winner will face Lutz Democrat Jim Piccillo, a business consultant.

Democrats also have targeted the 12th District seat Republican Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow is giving up to run for Florida agriculture commissioner. Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards won the Democratic nomination and state Rep. Dennis Ross took the Republican race.
Kosmas, like Grayson, unseated a Republican incumbent two years ago in the Orlando area's 24th District, and the GOP has made taking back those seats a top priority. State Rep. Sandy Adams of Orlando narrowly led a five-way Republican race for the right to challenge Kosmas.

Retired Army officer Allen West defeated builder David Brady for the GOP nomination in South Florida's 22nd District. That will set up a rematch of West's race with Klein two years ago if the Democratic incumbent also wins his primary.