THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, August 16, 2012
Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida
Tea party-backed "outsider" congressional candidates lost a big one, and appeared set to win a surprising one Tuesday as the GOP continued a "battle for the soul of the Republican Party."
Marking the first congressional election since tea party candidates were swept into office in 2010, long-time Republican incumbent John Mica easily defeated his tea party backed opponent, freshman incumbent Sandy Adams, in the only Florida congressional primary pitting sitting members of Congress against each other.
"This race has been called the fight for the soul of the Republican party," Mica said in a statement Tuesday night. "I'm happy to report the heart and soul of the party endures."
Tea party supporters, however, had better luck in north central Florida, where their candidate Ted Yoho, a newcomer, appeared likely to unseat 12-term Congressman Cliff Stearns, who had moved north to run in the sprawling district.
And in southwest Florida, conservative talk show host Trey Radel defeated a slate of political veterans and household names as he took the GOP primary in Congressional District 19 in Lee and Collier Counties.
"We had a message that resonated with the common man," Yoho said after polls closed and it appeared he would defeat Stearns. "…It was the feeling that career politicians had created this mess or they failed to prevent it. Neither was acceptable."
In District 6, a seven-candidate field battled it out. Coming out on top was Ron DeSantis, whose 39.1-percent take was enough to put him ahead of a field that included state Rep. Fred Costello, who came in a distant second with 22 percent of the vote.
In District 19, Radel defeated a star-studded group of political veterans including state House members Gary Aubuchon and Paige Kreegel. He also topped Chauncey Goss, whose father, Porter Goss, had occupied the congressional seat before becoming CIA director.
In District 9 in central Florida, Republican Todd Long surprised the field, defeating John Quinones, who many thought would win. Long will face Democrat Alan Grayson in November.
A handful of Democratic primaries also proved competitive Tuesday. Topping the list was a race in Miami-Dade County's District 23, where Joe Garcia defeated Democratic rivals for the chance to try to knock off freshman incumbent David Rivera, a Republican who has been plagued by ethics concerns since taking office.
In north Florida, former state Sen. Al Lawson defeated state Rep. Leonard Bembry and two others in the Democratic primary to face Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, a freshman congressman who is also seen as vulnerable.
In most congressional districts, relative calm ensued as incumbents and party standard bearers emerged Tuesday untouched or unscathed. Republican incumbents having an easy go Tuesday included Ander Crenshaw, Bill Young, Tom Rooney, and Allen West.
Democrats safely moving on Tuesday included incumbent Kathy Castor of Tampa and Patrick Murphy, who easily defeated a pair of opponents in District 18 to face West. Lois Frankel also dispatched her Democrat rival Kristen Jacobs and will face Republican Adam Hasner. Rep. Frederica Wilson beat back a challenge from fellow Democrat Rudy Moise.
Broward County Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz had no primary. She'll face Karen Harrington, who beat four other Republicans.
In some districts, there were no primaries at all. Here's a list:
District 1: Republican incumbent Jeff Miller and Democratic challenger Jim Bryan both advanced Tuesday without opposition.
District 5: Democratic incumbent Corrine Brown was unopposed and will face Republican Leanne Kolb and NPA candidate Eileen Fleming.
District 8. Incumbent Bill Posey, a Republican, and Democrat Shannon Roberts both faced no opposition.
District 10: Democrat Val Demings and incumbent Republican Daniel Webster both advanced without opposition.
District 11; Republican incumbent Richard Nugent advanced without opposition, as did Democrat David Werder.
District 12: Incumbent Republican Michael "Gus: Bilarakis sailed through without Republican opposition. He faces Democratic candidate Jonathan Michael Snow and a pair of nonaffiliated party candidates, Paul Elliot and John Russell.
District 15; Republican incumbent Dennis Ross went unopposed and faces no rival in November.
District 16: Neither Republican incumbent Vern Buchanan nor Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald faced primary opposition.
District 20: Democratic incumbent Alcee Hastings had no opposition and will face no party candidate Randall Terry..
District 21: Democratic incumbent Ted Deutch faced no opposition and faces two independents, Cesar Henao and Mike Trout. .
District 25: Republican incumbent Mario Diaz Balart was unopposed and faces a pair of non-party candidates in November, including VoteForEddie.com.
District 27: Incumbent Republican Ileana Ros Lehtinen and Democrat Manny Yevancey automatically advanced. NPA candidate Thomas Joe Cruz-Wiggins is also in that race.