Some Thoughts on the September 5th Primary
- Senator Rod Smith almost pulled it off. After spending most of the campaign with a double digit lead, he lost by only 6.4%. This number is not out of line with the last polling done (a poll taken in the second week of August showed Congressman Jim Davis with a 4 point lead) but what is most interesting is that the undecideds (who outnumbered supporters of either Smith or Davis throughout the campaign) did not break for either candidate, appearing to go right down the middle. In the end, this race probably came down to Davis' Tampa base being larger and stronger than Smith's base in Gainesville.
- Senate President Tom Lee won convincingly. He defeated Rep. Randy Johnson by over 20 points - 57.2% to 36.5%. I had thought that Johnson's busy campaign schedule and the fact that neither candidate could afford to truly compete on the air (they did run commercials, but to effectively get through to voters in Florida's expensive media markets can cost millions of dollars) would leave the race tighter. Unofficial numbers showed the turnout to be only 16% of eligible voters. While the average voter probably has no idea who the Senate President is, in a low turnout race, Lee would have been facing voters more likely to know about his leadership position.
- Hillsborough County Commissioner Kathy Castor overwhelms the competition. There has not been any real doubt about the outcome of the Democratic primary for the 11th Congressional District for some time, but Castor's campaign has to be congratulated for the carrying her over the all important 50% mark - to 53.9%.
- Congresswoman Katherine Harris held under 50%. Does this mean that if instead of three candidate jumping in late in the game, only one had joined the race, the "anybody but Harris" vote could have won? The staff at the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Florida Republican Party will be spending a lot of late hours at the bars in Washington and Tallahassee asking each other this question. Senator Bill Nelson's campaign staff are already setting their alarms for noon on November 7th and preparing for a leisurely Election Day walk.
- Bill Heller narrowly defeated 2004 candidate Liz McCallum in the Democratic primary for HD 52. McCallum was an energetic candidate and ran a suprisingly strong race against Rep. Farkas in 2004, but Democratic primary voters appear to have believed that Heller's deep ties in the community through his time as CEO at the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus and his strong fundraising (he raised more in his first month that McCallum was able to raise in the previous 18 months) made him the stronger the general election. Because the 52nd is a very winnable seat for a Democrat, the question of electability was probably the winning factor for Heller. Incumbent Frank Farkas was defeated by Rep. Kim Berfield in the Republican primary for SD 16. She will face popular Rep. Charlie Justice in the general election.
All numbers courtesy of the Florida Division of Elections.