|Published:||Aug 14, 2012 8:52 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Aug 14, 2012 8:52 PM EDT|
TALLHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Several Republican senators who had the backing of top GOP leaders appeared on their way to victory in their primary battles.
With 90 percent of the votes counted former Rep. Aaron Bean had 63 percent of the vote in his race against Rep. Mike Weinstein for a northeast Florida state Senate seat. With 81 percent of the votes counted Rep. John Legg was winning with 63 percent of the vote in a Tampa Bay area state Senate seat.
Former Senate President Tom Lee had nearly 60 percent of the vote with 85 percent of the votes counted in a Hillsborough County state Senate primary.
Meanwhile, Rep. Geraldine Thompson was beating Victoria Siplin, the wife of State Sen. Gary Siplin, in a contested central Florida Democratic primary. Thompson had 56 percent of the vote with 97 percent of the votes counted.
The race between Bean and Rep. Mike Weinstein had attracted millions in spending by outside groups because the contest could help swing the future leadership of the Florida Senate. The two opponents are backing rivals for Senate president.
Florida voters are choosing candidates for the state House and Senate in 70 primary races.
The legislative elections follow the once-a-decade job of drawing new districts. Despite the redrawn districts 39 candidates were elected without opposition in June.
The 70 legislative seats include four that have both Democratic and Republican primaries.
Some of the primaries turned into heated contests and proxy battles, while others feature former legislators trying to return to office.
Weinstein had called his election part of a "power struggle" against Tallahassee insiders.
"If I win it indicates that maybe a few people in Tallahassee can't decide," Weinstein said. "If I lose it only encourages the style of politics where a few people with access to other people's money decide."
But Gaetz defended the heated nature of this year's legislative races and his decision to throw his support behind certain Republicans running in the primary.
"Politics in Florida is a full-contact sport," Gaetz said. "Primaries and general elections fights can be tough and they can be bruising."
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