Meek (D) Wins Senate Primary In Florida; Scott Upsets McCollum For GOP Gov.

The cast of characters in the three-way Florida Senate race is set.

Rep. Kendrick Meek won the Democratic nomination Tuesday night, turning back an expensive challenge from billionaire real estate mogul Jeff Greene.  Greene had poured millions of dollars into the race in a late bid to upset Meek, an African-American congressman from Miami and long the choice of the party leadership.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Meek had 57 percent of the vote to Greene's 31 percent.  (Two other candidates trailed.)

Meek now goes into the general election against Republican Marco Rubio, who easily won his party's primary, and independent Charlie Crist, the governor, who quit the GOP after it became obvious that he had no chance against Rubio among Republican voters.

The seat is currently held by George LeMieux, a longtime Crist aide, whom the governor appointed as a caretaker last year after the surprise resignation of GOP incumbent Mel Martinez.  Once upon a time, the feeling was that LeMieux would keep the seat warm for Crist.  That may still happen, but not the way everyone once envisioned it.

A surprise, however, in the Republican gubernatorial primary, as millionaire businessman Rick Scott defeated the establishment choice, state Attorney General Bill McCollum.  The margin was 46-43 percent, with a third candidate getting 10 percent.  The race was nasty and personal, with Scott branding McCollum as a career politician and a "creature of government," while McCollum was reminding voters of Scott's involvement years ago as CEO of Columbia/HCA, a large hospital chain, which was hit with a $1.7 billion fine over charges of Medicare fraud.

It will no doubt be a key issue in the campaign of Alex Sink, the state's (elected) chief financial officer, who won the Democratic primary with 77 percent of the vote.

Democrats last won the governorship in 1994, when incumbent Lawton Chiles edged GOP candidate Jeb Bush, who came back to win the job four years later.  Chiles' son, Lawton "Bud" Chiles III, is running this year for governor as an independent.

With his third statewide defeat, we may have seen the end of McCollum's political career.  He gave up his House seat in 2000 to run for the Senate and lost that race to Democrat Bill Nelson.  In 2004 he tried again but lost the GOP primary to Martinez.

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