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Primaries Will All But Decide Some Congressional Races

By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida
By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, August 1, 2012

Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida

While most candidates have the luxury of time, a handful of candidates in key congressional races will face their toughest challenge in two weeks in the primary.

Primary races in a few congressional contests will either determine the winner, or will clear the way for a heavy favorite.

National attention has been focused on the race between Republican incumbents Sandy Adams and John Mica to see who will represent U.S. Congressional District 7. The race is being touted as a bellwether contest to determine whether the Tea Party has the political staying power to influence the course of the Republican Party.

Adams, a former state House member, was elected to Congress in 2010 amid a flurry of Tea Party backed candidates. She has raised nearly $850,000 so far in the campaign and counts among her supporters former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and U.S. Rep. Allen West.

Mica, a 10-term incumbent, is sitting on more than $1.3 million in cash after out-raising Adams in the second quarter by a more than 3-1 margin. This week, former U.S. presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee added his name to Mica's list of supporters.

Democrat Jason Kendall awaits the winner, but whoever wins the GOP primary will be the heavy favorite as an incumbent. Kendall is far less well known than either Adams or Mica.

The turf is the I-4 corridor, north of Orlando and including the cities of Altamonte Springs and Deltona.

DISTRICT 3

Long -time incumbent Cliff Stearns faces a rigorous primary battle with three Republican hopefuls. The newly drawn 3rd Congressional District pushes its way from Levy and Dixie Counties on the Gulf Coast northeast to Clay County and to the Georgia border.

First elected to Congress in 1988, Stearns is among a handful of incumbents to find themselves in new districts. Earlier this year, Stearns made the decision to go after the seat instead of facing one-term incumbent Richard Nugent for the District 5 seat that includes part of Stearns old district, though the new 3rd also has part of Stearns' former district.

Veterinarian and political newcomer Ted Yoho is touting himself as an outsider, but after Stearns, he's the biggest fundraiser in the race. Still, Stearns has raised more than double what Yoho has.

Two-term state Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, has garnered support from his Tallahassee contacts and local officials he worked with during his tenure as Alachua County Sheriff..

Oelrich also benefits from the fact that his state Senate district includes 60 percent of the Congressional district, and his hometown is in the middle of it. He has raised $192,422, but has spent all but $28,392 as of June 30.

A third actively campaigning Republican, James Jett, has some name recognition in one corner of the district as the Clay County Clerk of Courts since 1998 and a former Clay County commissioner, and has made the race more controversial than it might otherwise have been by alleging that Stearns tried to bribe him to drop out of the race, an allegation Stearns flatly denies. Jett has claimed the FBI is investigating the allegation.

DISTRICT 6
One of the liveliest primary races takes place in Congressional District 6, where a seven-way Republican primary is playing itself out. While this one isn't a done-deal after the primary, the district is extremely Republican with Gov. Rick Scott having easily won in the area in 2010.

Ron DeSantis, Richard Clark, Craig Miller, Billy Kogut, Alec Pueschel, Beverly Slough and Fred Costello are running in the GOP primary for the coastal district running from Volusia County north through Flagler to St. Johns.

DeSantis, a Jacksonville area attorney, leads the pack moneywise with more than $404,000 as of June 30. Among the Republicans in DeSantis' camp is Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Clark, a Jacksonville city councilman, has amassed nearly $252,000 in his campaign coffers. Clark's gotten the backing of the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors and Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness.

Restaurant industry executive Craig Miller of Ormond Beach, a former chairman of the National Restaurant Association, has raised nearly $110,000 in his bid. Endorsements have come from former Presidential candidate Herman Cain, former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and former. U.S. Congressman Ric Keller. Miller earlier was running for the U.S. Senate, but switched to the congressional race.

Costello, a former Ormond Beach mayor and now a state House member, jumped into the fray late and has so far raised $46,881 during an abbreviated quarter of fundraising.

DISTRICT 19: Another Republican free-for all plays itself out in Southwest Florida where a number of recognizable names are in the race. For the first time in eight years, an incumbent won't be in the mix to represent much of the area. U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV is making a bid for the U.S. Senate.

With so many candidates, a relatively small plurality will put the victor over the top.

State House members Paige Kreegel and Gary Aubuchon face Chauncey Goss III, Byron Donalds, Joe Davidow and former television anchor and conservative talk show host Trey Radel for the coastal district in Lee and Collier counties an area that's long been a Republican bastion.

While Aubuchon was considered an early favorite, Goss, has been endorsed by former Gov. Jeb Bush and has some name recognition from the fact that his father, Porter Goss, was a longtime congressman in the area.

Radel, in turn, has garnered Mack's endorsement.

Each of the top four candidates has raised at least $389,000, with Kreegel and Radel leading the pack with about $450,000 a piece. Aubuchon and Goss aren't far behind.

Donalds, while trailing the pack in fundraising with $102,700 is still a factor in the race. He's been endorsed by the Naples Daily News , and touted as an up-and-coming GOP leader. He is also the primary's only minority candidate.

DISTRICT 24

Republican candidates aren't the only ones who will lock up a seat in August. This Democratic stronghold pits one-term U.S. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson against a well-financed challenger. Rudy Moise. He is a Haitian-born osteopathic physician who also has an MBA and a law degree, was an Air Force flight surgeon and currently is a colonel in the Air Force Reserve. Wilson has raised $409,526 for the cycle and has $156,123 on hand as of June 30. Moise has raised $289,187 and had $161,950 on hand at the end of the quarter, but also in the past has shown the ability to put his own money into a race. Moise was one of several candidates who sought the seat in 2010 when Wilson won it. There are no Republicans running for the now redrawn seat in the still heavily Democratic district, so the primary will determine the winner.


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