Florida gubernatorial candidate and congressman Charlie Crist (D) speaks during the gala event of the Florida Democratic Party Leadership Blue 2022 convention in Tampa, Florida, U.S. July 16, 2022. REUTERS/Octavio Jones/File Photo
WASHINGTON, Aug 23 (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor of Florida, emerged on Tuesday as the Democrat who will try to unseat sitting Republican Governor Ron DeSantis in the November general election.
Voters cast ballots in state primaries in Florida, New York and Oklahoma to choose party nominees for the Nov. 8 midterm elections, which will determine the balance of power in the House of Representatives and Senate in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.
In an unusual intraparty contest in New York, House Democrat Jerry Nadler defeated fellow Democratic incumbent Carolyn Maloney, ending her 30-year career in Congress in a redrawn district that pitted the two longtime politicians against each other.
Nadler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, won with 55.8% of the vote, vs. 24.2% for Maloney, who chairs the House Oversight Committee.
New York also held the first competitive congressional election since the Supreme Court overturned national abortion rights.
In the Democratic nominating contest for Florida’s governor race, Crist, 66, bested state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Edison Research projected. With 78% of the vote counted, Crist had 59.1% vs. 35.4% for Fried.
Fried had sought to rally support as a candidate intent on protecting abortion rights after the Supreme Court in June overturned its landmark Roe v. Wade ruling.
Crist, who served as a Republican Florida governor from 2007 to 2011, portrayed himself as a candidate ready to unify the state after DeSantis’ focus on culture war issues. He drew endorsements from Democratic leaders including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
DeSantis is seen as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, and Democrats hope they can derail any White House bid by denying him reelection in Florida.
“When we defeat him on Nov. 8, that show is over,” Crist told cheering supporters.
Recent polling data shows DeSantis leading Crist by several percentage points. Running as a Democrat, Crist lost the 2014 governor’s race against Republican Rick Scott.
Meanwhile, Val Demings, another House Democrat, will square off against Republican Marco Rubio in Florida’s Senate race, after defeating three rivals in the state’s Democratic primary election, according to a projection by Edison Research.
Most opinion polls show Rubio leading Demings by several points to double digits, according to the tracking website FiveThirtyEight.com.
DeSantis and Rubio, a former presidential hopeful, had no primary opponents.
In a Republican Senate primary run-off in Oklahoma, U.S. Representative Markwayne Mullin beat former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon for the party nomination to replace retiring Senator Jim Inhofe, Edison projected. With 32% of the vote in, Edison said Mullin defeated Shannon by 66.6% to 33.4%.
SHOWDOWN OVER ABORTION
Democrats have been widely seen as the underdog party up to now in the midterm elections for House and Senate, with their prospects weighed down by historical trends, inflation, and President Joe Biden’s low job approval numbers.
Republicans are favored to take control of the House, putting them in a position to scupper Biden’s legislative agenda. But their chances of capturing the Senate have been cast into doubt by the weakness of Trump-endorsed candidates in the key swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
In New York, Democrat Pat Ryan and Republican Marc Molinaro were vying for an open U.S. House seat in a special election that could give both parties a preview of the November midterms.
Ryan and Molinaro are contending for New York’s 19th Congressional District, which includes the Catskill Mountains and part of the Hudson Valley.
Their showdown offers a test of whether Democrats can use the abortion issue to deflect Republican criticism over the economy. Democratic hopes were raised earlier this month when voters in Republican-dominated Kansas rejected a constitutional amendment to remove abortion protections. read more
Ryan, an Army combat veteran and the executive of Ulster County, has campaigned on the message that the loss of national abortion rights amounts to an “existential threat” to U.S. democracy. read more
Molinaro, the executive of Dutchess County, opposes abortion and has downplayed the issue to focus his message on high inflation and crime rates.
The two men are battling for the seat left vacant when Democrat Antonio Delgado became the state’s lieutenant governor.
U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a five-term Democratic incumbent, defeated challenger Alessandra Biaggi in a suburban New York primary contest. With 48% of the vote counted, Maloney won 66.3% to Biaggi’s 33.1%, according to Edison Research.
The contest was seen as a proxy battle between the party establishment and its progressive wing. Biaggi was endorsed by Democratic Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a leading House progressive.
Reporting by Eric Beech and Moira Warburton; Writing by David Morgan; editing by Ross Colvin and Rosalba O’Brien
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