Florida Sen. Marco Rubio won the Republican nomination for Senate on Tuesday night, a result that enhances Republicans chances of retaining that seat and the Senate majority.
The former presidential candidate easily beat businessman Carlos Beruff in early GOP returns and will face Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy in November, according to Associated Press projections. Murphy dispatched fellow congressman Alan Grayson in the Democratic primary, the AP reported.
In the banner House primary, Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz beat college professor Tim Canova, the AP reported. Canova raised $3.3 million in mostly small-dollar donations from supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign who were aggrieved over Wasserman-Schultz’s handling of the presidential race in her former role as Democratic national chairwoman.
But Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), facing a 22-count federal corruption indictment and redistricting, became the fifth House incumbent to lose a primary this cycle. Former state Sen. Al Lawson won the Democratic nomination in her stead.
Polls are open until 10 p.m. in Arizona, where Sen. John McCain faces a vigorous primary challenge from the right in the Republican primary. Former state Sen. Kelli Ward has attacked McCain as too willing to compromise with Democrats but has struggled to raise the money and amass the widespread support needed for a serious challenge to the six-term incumbent.
In Florida, political watchers are scouring primary returns in a bevy of House districts that were been redrawn just months ago by a court-ordered redistricting. At least seven of the state’s 27 House seats will have new representatives in January, and as many as eight more could see turnover.
Hotly contested primaries also developed to fill the open House seats of Murphy and Grayson, as well as those vacated by the retiring Gwen Graham (D), Ander Crenshaw (R) and Curt Clawson (R).
Many of those races have been marked by the familiar national dynamic pitting establishment-vs.-insurgents — but with local twists. In the redrawn 2nd District, surgeon Neal Dunn and lawyer Mary Thomas are clashing over their ties to former Gov. Charlie Crist — the Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat who is a reviled figure among Florida conservatives.
A similar dynamic is at play in the Jacksonville-area 4th District, being vacated by Crenshaw, where former county sheriff John Rutherford is tangling with Hans Tanzler III, an attorney, and Lake Ray, a state lawmaker, over who is most thoroughly conservative.
In the Atlantic-coast 18th district, left open by Murphy, former school board member Rebecca Negron, wife of the state Senate president, is under fire for her establishment ties from outsider candidates, including Brian Mast, a wounded veteran touted by national conservatives.
In the 19th district seat vacated by Clawson, Francis Rooney, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and a major GOP fundraiser, appears to have the upper hand over Chauncey Goss, son of former congressman and CIA director Porter Goss; and Dan Bongino, an ex-Secret Service agent who twice failed in Maryland congressional bids.
In the Miami-area 26th District, Democrats former Rep. Joe Garcia and businesswoman Annette Taddeo were locked in a tight contest for the right to challenge incumbent Carlos Curbelo (R), who is at the top of national Democrats’ target lists.
And in the Orlando-area 9th District, Dena Grayson — wife of the incumbent — is battling her husband’s former chief of staff, Susannah Randolph, and state Sen. Darren Soto.
Just a few months ago, the Florida Senate primaries looked to be marquee contests as each party maneuvered to fill the seat that Rubio pledged to vacate. But in June, Rubio abruptly reversed course under pressure from national Republicans afraid that the seat was in jeopardy — perhaps along with the Senate majority. Beruff, a real estate developer who embraced the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, stayed in the race but failed to catch fire with Florida voters after spending millions of his own dollars.
On the Democratic side, the battle between Grayson and Murphy looked like it would turn into a proxy fight between progressive and centrist Democrats.
But Grayson’s claim as a liberal firebrand was tarnished by a major ethics complaint and domestic violence reports, while Murphy has largely weathered unflattering scrutiny of his resume to build a significant lead in recent polls. Earlier this month, Murphy stopped running ads, signaling that he’s conserving his war chest for Rubio.