On primary day all eyes on Florida's Democratic Senate and Republican Governors races

08/24/10 Seán Kinane
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Voters across Florida head to the polls today and there are two statewide primary races that have drawn national attention. The Republican primary for Governor and the race to become the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee, led by Kendrick Meek.

Four Democrats are on the ballot to become their party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate in Florida. The top two in the polls are U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and billionaire Jeff Greene. But the long-time party insider, Meek, is polling ahead of the self-styled outsider, Greene. Meek qualified for the ballot by gathering signatures rather than paying a fee.

"It will be a testimonial to the people of the state of Florida that said 'we will stand with those that have stood with us.' And I think that will send a very strong message and will allow me to be competitive in the generla election and eventually win the general election and become the next senator."

Meek’s opponent Greene made much of his fortune by banking on the collapse of the housing market and has been criticized for a lavish lifestyle that includes wild celebrity parties on his yacht. Greene touts his financial independence and plays up his status as an outsider.

“We’re going to win this uphill climb, because it’s important that Floridians have a voice in the Senate: Jeff Greene, who knows how to create jobs, who knows how to get results and who will not take any special interest money at all and put the people of Florida first.”

Whoever survives Tuesday’s primary still faces a formidable challenge in the general election for U.S. Senate, running against independent Governor Charlie Crist and presumptive Republican nominee Marco Rubio.

In the Republican primary for Florida Governor, there’s a similar narrative, though this race appears closer. Current Attorney General Bill McCollum spent 20 years in Congress and was a House Manager of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. McCollum has criticized his opponent Rick Scott for heading the health care company Columbia/HCA when it was forced to pay a record $1.7 billion in Medicare and Medicaid fraud settlements. But Scott, who has never run for office, defends his record.

“We did a great job at Columbia. We drove the cost of health care down. The way we did it, we just measured the living daylights out of everything. We had great people and we just measured, measured, measured, measured, measured.”

Scott has spent $39 million of his own money on the campaign while McCollum has raised less than 8 million. The two Republicans agree on many of the same socially conservative policies like cracking down on undocumented immigrants and opposing gay marriage. Florida law forbids gay parents from adopting; both McCollum and Scott personally oppose gay couples becoming foster parents.

Bud Chiles is not on the primary ballot because he’s running for Governor without party affiliation: ”I believe that the kids are better off in a gay household, than being in the system. So, I don’t share General McCollum’s view.”

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