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Democratic race for governor highlights Florida primary

Primary Election
Posted at 11:43 AM, Aug 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-23 11:43:47-04

MIAMI (AP) — The most significant race in Florida's primary election Tuesday is between the two Democratic gubernatorial candidates seeking to go against Gov. Ron DeSantis, who's unopposed in the Republican primary.

That race pits U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

For the U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep. Val Demings faces three lesser-known candidates in the Democratic primary, and incumbent Republican Marco Rubio is unopposed.

Voters also will choose candidates in primaries for attorney general, agriculture commissioner and U.S. House seats.


The Democratic primary pits U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former governor as a Republican, against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is currently Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat. The winner will face Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in November. Crist last served in statewide office from 2007 to 2011 as a Republican governor. He lost a 2010 race for U.S. Senate as an independent and a 2014 run for governor as a Democrat.


Former Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala and Dan Uhlfelder are among three Democrats hoping to challenge Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody, who doesn’t have a primary opponent. Ayala received national attention for refusing to seek the death penalty in murder cases. Uhlfelder has been a frequent critic of DeSantis and made headlines by walking Panhandle beaches dressed as the Grim Reaper to protest the governor’s COVID-19 policies.


Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson is running in the GOP primary for agriculture commissioner against little-known candidate James Shaw. Three Democrats — Naomi Blemur, J.R. Gaillot and Ryan Morales — are on the primary ballot, though none has raised enough money or has the name recognition to run a credible statewide campaign.


Incumbent Republican Jimmy Patronis has no GOP opposition for chief financial officer. He will face Democratic former state Rep. Adam Hattersley, who also has no opposition, in the November general election.


Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings is running against three little-known, underfunded candidates for her party’s nomination to face Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has no primary challenger.


Florida this year will elect at least six new members of Congress – four because incumbents are retiring or seeking higher office and two because of the creation of a new district and redrawing of current districts that pit two incumbents against each. Here are the key primaries:

—District 1: Republican incumbent Matt Gaetz is being challenged by Mark Lombardo and Greg Merk. In 2020, Gaetz won the primary with 80.9% of the vote against Merk and another candidate. This year, Lombardo, a veteran and business executive, is a well-financed opponent, having sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money in the race in the hopes that GOP voters in the western Panhandle aren’t happy with Gaetz’ frequent inflammatory remarks.

—District 2: No primary is being held. Democratic Rep. Al Lawson will face Republican Rep. Neal Dunn in a redrawn congressional district in November.

—District 3: Incumbent Rep. Kat Cammack faces Justin Waters, a juvenile law attorney, in the Republican primary. Danielle Hawk, a digital project manager and community activist, faces Tom Wells, president of radar company World Radomes Inc., in the Democratic race.

—District 4: State Sen. Aaron Bean is among three Republicans seeking this open Jacksonville-area seat. The other two are Erick Aguilar and Jon Chuba. On the Democratic side, former state Sen. Anthony Hill faces LaShonda Holloway, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2020. Republicans have an advantage in the district.

—District 5: Republican Rep. John Rutherford faces two less-funded challengers, homemaker Mara Macie and cosmetologist Leigha Lopez in the GOP primary. No Democrats are running for the seat.

—District 6: GOP Rep. Michael Waltz faces businessman Charles E. Davis in the Republican primary. There is also a Libertarian candidate on the November ballot, but no Democrat.

_District 7: Eight Republicans and four Democrats are seeking the seat left open by Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s decision to leave Congress. The district extends from Seminole County to the Atlantic Coast and now leans Republican after redistricting. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini is among the Republican candidates. Among Democrats are Karen Green, a former Florida Democratic Party vice chair, and Al Krulick who has run unsuccessfully for Congress three other times.

—District 8: The Republican incumbent, Rep. Bill Posey, has no opposition in the GOP primary. Joanne Terry, a retired satellite systems engineer, or Danelle Dodge, a small business owner, and running in the Democratic primary.

—District 9: Democratic Rep. Darren Soto is unopposed in the primary and will face the winner of the Republican primary in November. The candidates are Walt Disney World executive Jose Castillo, Christian non-profit worker Scotty Moore, pastor and Republican activist Adianis Morales and real estate broker Sergio Ortiz.

_District 10: Ten Democrats and six Republicans are seeking the seat left open by Democratic Rep. Val Demings' decision to run for Senate. Among Democrats are former U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Alan Grayson. Brown is a convicted felon from Jacksonville and Grayson is an outspoken former congressman whose inflammatory comments generated headlines. His two recent efforts to return to Washington have failed. Social justice activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost has a money advantage and a number of high-profile endorsements. State Sen. Randolph Bracy is also in the primary for the seat in a firmly Democratic district.

—District 11: Nationally known far-right activist Laura Loomer, who’s been banned by several social media platforms because of anti-Muslim and other remarks, is challenging incumbent Republican Dan Webster, who has served central Florida districts since 2011.

—District 12: Four Republicans are running in the primary against incumbent Rep. Gus Bilirakis. They are Chris Leiser, construction firm operator, Jack Martin, a retired pastor and fire department chaplain, Brian Perras, a former actor who works in real estate business, and Sid Preskitt, who worked for commercial dive training business. Democrat Kimberly Walker, a Treasury Department contractor and military veteran, has no primary challenge.

—District 13: Five Republicans are seeking the nomination in the St. Petersburg-area seat left open when Crist decided to run for governor. It is essentially a rematch between Anna Paulina Luna and Amanda Makki, who came in first and second respectively in a five-way primary two years ago. The formerly competitive seat now leans Republican. The winner will face Democrat Eric Lynn, who worked in the Obama administration.

—District 14: Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor is facing a primary challenge from Christopher Bradley, a cyber defense and tech expert. Republican candidates are James Judge, public relations executive and former Coast Guard officer, Samar Nashagh, a former Marine and media production project manager, and Jerry Torres, defense contractor.

_District 15: Five Republicans are competing for the new district east of Tampa. The top Republicans include former Secretary of State Laura Lee, state Sen. Kelli Stargel and state Rep. Jackie Toledo. Five Democrats are also seeking the nomination in the district that heavily favors Republicans.

—District 16: Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan is being challenged in the GOP primary by businessman Martin Hyde. Democrat Jan Schneider, an international lawyer and author, is unopposed and will take on the winner.

—District 17: No primary is being held. GOP Rep. Greg Steube will face Democrat Andrea Doria Kale and a no-party candidate in November.

—District 18: Four Republicans qualified to run in the primary against incumbent GOP Rep. Scott Franklin. They are businessman Kenneth Hartpence, attorney Jennifer Raybon, teacher Wendy Schmeling and cigar company owner Eduardo Tarazona. There is no Democratic candidate.

—District 19: First-term Rep. Byron Donalds is opposed by engineer Jim Huff in the Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat Cindy Banyai in November.

_District 20: Democratic U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is facing primary competition in the seat she won in a special election earlier this year. Former Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, who lost to Cherfilus-McCormick by five votes, and state Rep. Anika Omphroy, are also running for the seat that includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

—District 21: Incumbent Rep. Brian Mast has three challengers in the Republican primary. THey are businessman Jeff Buongiorno, attorney and non-profit founder Melissa Martz, and medical professional Ljubo Skrbic. Democrat Corinna Balderramos Robinson awaits the winner in November.

—District 22: Five Republicans are competing in the primary for the chance to take on Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel, who is unopposed in a Democratic stronghold. The Republicans are financial adviser Deborah Adeimy, crisis consultant Peter Arianas, attorney and Navy veteran Rod Dorilas, financial investor Dan Franseze and financial investor Çarrie Lawlor.

_District 23: Six Democrats and seven Republicans are running for the South Florida seat left open by Democratic Rep Ted Deutch’s decision to retire. The most prominent name among Democrats is Jared Moskowitz, the former state representative who helped pass gun legislation after the Parkland shootings, and who served as DeSantis’ emergency management director. The seat is firmly Democratic.

—District 24: Veteran Rep. Frederica Wilson faces police officer Kevin Harris in the Democratic primary. Two Republicans are also running in a district that is heavily Democratic. They are Jesus Navarro, who works for disability mobility firm, and Lavern Spicer, a small business owner.

—District 25: Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz lines up against accountant Robert Millwee in the primary. Two Republicans face off in the GOP primary for a solidly Democratic seat. They are registered nurse Carla Spalding and retired veteran Rubin Young.

—District 26: Longtime GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is running against disability advocate Darren Aquino in the Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat Christine Alexandria Olivo, who is unopposed.

_District 27: State Sen. Annette Taddeo, who was Crist’s lieutenant governor running mate in 2014, and Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell are among three Democratic candidates hoping to challenge Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar. The Miami-area district has switched parties several times in recent years.

—District 28: Incumbent Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez has two lesser-known challengers, energy consultant Karl Miller and actor Carlos Garin, in the GOP primary. Robert Ascencio, a retired schools police chief and former state legislator, and Juan Parades, who works in the computer industry, are facing off in the Democratic primary. A write-in candidate is also vying for the seat.