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Florida Primary Voters Make Crist-Scott Gubernatorial Battle Official

By Aaron Deslatte and Scott Powers, Orlando Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Charlie Crist’s transformation from Republican governor to Democratic nominee was cemented Tuesday as he easily cruised to the nomination for his old job by his new party.

Now voters and donors will be bracing themselves as Crist and GOP Governor Rick Scott wage one of the hottest political fights in the nation. Both sides are likely to carpet-bomb the airwaves with negative advertising during a two-month march to the Nov. 4 general election.

With most counties reporting, Crist had received 74.4 percent of the vote statewide compared to 25.6 percent for former Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich. Although Rich has been running for two years, Crist refused to debate her and donors largely stayed away.

“This campaign will come down to who Floridians trust to fight for them, and they know that Charlie Crist has always been on the side of the people,” Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said in a statement.

“Rick Scott has spent the last four years selling Florida to the highest bidder with taxpayer funded giveaways to big corporations while cutting education and turning his back on the middle class.”

Since Crist entered the race last November, Scott and his allies have shoveled more than $65 million into advertising and other campaign expenses.

Crist has spent just a fraction of that so far — about $18.5 million from Crist’s campaign funds and Florida Democratic Party coffers — but that spending will accelerate now thanks to donors from across the country interested in establishing a beachhead in the all-important swing state for the 2016 presidential election.

“The next few months are about talk versus action,” Scott said in a statement. “That means Florida will have a choice between a governor who sent our state into a tailspin and a governor who gets results. Charlie Crist failed as governor, lost 830,000 jobs, and tried to run off to Washington — and now he wants his job back.”

Scott also easily won his party’s nomination for re-election in what was little more than a formality against two unknown Republicans, Yinka Abosede Adeshina and Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder. Early returns had him with 87.4 percent of the vote.

Democratic voters also tapped George Sheldon as their long-shot nominee to run against incumbent Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi. Sheldon, a former legislator who served as secretary of the Department of Children and Families under Crist’s administration, was leading Perry Thurston, the current House minority leader, 61.9 percent to 38.1 percent.

In one of the toughest primary battles, state Sen. Geraldine Thompson was easily deflecting a challenge from her predecessor and longtime political rival, former state Sen. Gary Siplin, in District 12, which covers much of western Orange County. In early returns Thompson held a commanding 65 to 35 lead.

For the Republicans, Edward DeAguilera held an early 55-45 lead over Fritz Jackson Seide, to face Thompson in November, in a district that has been a Democratic stronghold for years.

Several state House of Representatives races were hotly contested this summer.

In District 31, in eastern Lake County and western Orange, tea party favorite Jennifer Sullivan, who is just 22, led Randy Glisson by six points in a crowded field. The other candidates, Belita Grassel, Terri Seefeldt, Joseph Stephenswere well back and out of the running.

The winner will be elected, since there is no Democrat so there will be no general election.

Photo: Robert Duyos/Sun Sentinel/MCT

‘Stand Your Ground’ Protesters Call Florida ‘Stuck On Stupid’

By Aaron Deslatte, Orlando Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis led a crowd of protesters to the Capitol Monday to warn Republican policymakers that failing to repeal Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law will haunt them at the polls this fall.

Florida’s “shoot-first” law passed in 2005 has been blamed for a rash of high-profile shootings in recent years. The law allows people who are not involved in criminal activity to stand their ground and meet force with force if they feel threatened.

Last summer, George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer who got into a physical altercation with Martin, who was not armed.

This year, the law was in the middle of a legal showdown in Jacksonville after Michael Dunn was found guilty of second-degree attempted murder for shooting into a car full of teenagers and killing 17-year old Jordan Davis.

“Florida is an ‘F’ state. Right now, Florida is failing us,” Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, told a crowd of hundreds of demonstrators, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who marched the streets to the Capitol.

Sharpton called Florida “ground zero” for the gun-friendly self-defense laws that have spread to two dozen other states, making it appropriate that Florida should be where they press to reform or repeal the law.

“You have legislators saying our children can be killed based on the imaginations of others,” he said. “Protecting yourself is not having a social hallucination.”

The parents are later planning to testify before a committee, although the GOP-dominated Legislature has shown no willingness to make major changes to the law.

Last November, a House committee defeated a bill that would have repealed the law. And another measure sponsored by Sens. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, which makes minor changes to the law faces stiff opposition in the House.

“We will fight to change their minds. We will fight to change their hearts,” Smith said.

A spokesman for House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said the chamber had no plans to re-consider the repeal.

Although the law itself is unlikely to change this spring, the issue could resonate to help Democrats deliver their voters to the polls this fall. Gov. Rick Scott was singled out by several speakers over his steadfast support for the law and is facing an uphill climb to keep his job against likely Democratic opponent Charlie Crist.

Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin’s father, said if the law isn’t changed “we’ve got to make a change in that office.”

Asked for comment, a spokesman for the governor responded with a one-sentence email: “Governor Scott supports the 2nd Amendment and Florida’s self defense laws.”

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, said the state had embarrassed itself with the law. “We’re here because Florida is stuck on stupid.”

Photo: LaDawna’s pics via Flickr