Florida’s current and former governors lined up for an epic battle Tuesday as incumbent Republican Rick Scott and Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist won their primaries handily. The Associated Press called both men as winners early in the counting. With 69 percent of the vote in as of 8:45 p.m. EDT, Scott had 88 percent of the GOP vote over two challengers. Crist had 74 percent over former Democratic state Senate leader Senate Nan Rich, who tried to cast herself as the real Democrat in the field. Crist largely ignored and refused to debate her.
Rich has said she will support Crist in the general election.
Crist, now 58, was elected governor in 2006 as a Republican after a term as state attorney general. He served only one term and announced a run for the Senate in 2010. But he abandoned the GOP when faced with a tough Republican Senate primary against Marco Rubio, the young state House speaker. He ran as an independent and lost to Rubio in a three-way race.
Crist, who formerly opposed abortion and gay marriage before shifting on those positions, officially joined the Democratic Party in 2012 and spoke at the Democratic National Convention and campaigned for President Barack Obama, who carried Florida in both 2008 and 2012.
Meanwhile Scott, now 61, was elected governor in 2010 after spending roughly $75 million of his own money in the campaign. He co-founded the largest private for-profit health care company in the U.S. and later was a venture capitalist.
Scott is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbent governors in the country. And Crist has mounted a formidable campaign, stocked with former Obama advisers and staffers. The Democrat has raised $8.8 million, according to filings with the Florida Board of Elections — shy of Scott’s $10.3 million, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The Scott-Crist showdown has already been one of the most expensive elections of 2014. Scott has been blasting Crist with negative ads and trying to improve his own image. Polls show it’s a margin-of-error race, Politico reports.
No Democrat has been elected governor of Florida in 20 years.