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MIAMI (AP) - A Republican governor's race and a Democratic U.S. Senate campaign in which political newcomers sought to topple party establishment candidates are the feature races Tuesday in Florida's primary election.
Polls before Tuesday's vote indicated a tight race between GOP gubernatorial candidates Rick Scott, a wealthy businessman, and state Attorney General Bill McCollum, a longtime former congressman from Orlando. The winner in November will likely face Democrat Alex Sink, the elected state chief financial officer who had only token primary opposition.
In the Democratic Senate race, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek is facing billionaire investor Jeff Greene, like Scott seeking his first public office. The winner takes on Republican Marco Rubio, a former state House speaker and darling of the GOP's right wing, and Gov. Charlie Crist, who left the Republican Party to become an independent amid Rubio's strong challenge.
Voters will also pick candidates in both parties for attorney general. Republicans must decide between Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, former Tampa prosecutor Pam Bondi and Holly Benson, a former state House member and municipal bond lawyer. The two Democrats are both South Florida state senators: Dave Aronberg and Dan Gelber.
In the two top-of-ticket races, Scott and Greene have both spent tens of millions of their own dollars to blanket the state with TV ads. Polls during much of the summer showed both surging ahead, but those leads began to shrink or disappear as Democratic and Republican leaders rallied more firmly behind Meek and McCollum.
The campaigns also grew increasingly harsh. Meek, portrayed as linked to corrupt Miami business figures by Greene, hit back by emphasizing that Greene's huge fortune was made by betting the mortgage market would collapse. Scott, meanwhile, called McCollum a typical tax-raising politician, but was forced to repeatedly answer his opponent's claims that Scott was in charge when his former hospital conglomerate paid $1.7 billion to settle federal Medicare fraud charges.
The Senate race was triggered by the retirement of Republican Mel Martinez, now JP Morgan Chase bank's chief executive in Florida.
Turnout is typically fairly light for primaries, especially in non-presidential years. Usually less than a third of registered voters cast ballots. However, more than 361,000 voters have already cast ballots in Florida's early voting system, according to the secretary of state's office.
Click here to visit the Division of Elections website: http://election.dos.state.fl.us/
Click here to see election results as they come in: http://enight.dos.state.fl.us/
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