Florida Primary Includes Trump Defender, Female Trailblazer

(CN) – A conservative Republican congressman supported by President Donald Trump and the daughter of a former governor who is seeking to become the first female chief executive were trying to fend off other challengers Tuesday in primaries to choose nominees for the seat being vacated by Gov. Rick Scott.

Like other state primaries this year, President Donald Trump’s presence looms large over both parties’ primaries.

Trump endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis earlier this year and traveled to the state to hold a rally in support of the three-term congressman. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, once considered the front runner, has trailed in polls since the endorsement.

Trump’s endorsements have swayed recent Republican primaries in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.

“I believe in Trump’s policies and while I don’t love the way he opens his mouth too much, sometimes saying things that are not quite appropriate, I do believe that in his heart he really means well,” said Josie Parke, who is supporting DeSantis. “He’s doing things the way I like.”

Former Rep. Gwen Graham is the favorite among the five gubernatorial candidates on the Democratic Party side. Her father, Bob Graham, was governor from 1979 to 1987.

She has been praised as a moderate consensus builder, who won election to the U.S. House in a heavily Republican district four years ago.

Florida has never elected a woman as governor.

“I think 2018 will be the year of the women,” said Gregory Koger, who voted for Graham. “And I think that as a female she can help turn out a lot of voters, make people feel enthusiastic and provide a nice contrast in the race.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, billionaire Jeff Greene and Chris King, a businessman from Orlando, round out the field.

Greene has repeatedly invoked Trump’s name to encourage democrats to come out and claims he has the money to beat any Republican challenger. Levine has pointed to liberal initiatives in Miami Beach, such as attempting to raise the city’s minimum wage, to bolster support. Earlier this month, Gillum received the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Current Gov. Rick Scott is term limited and running for the U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. Both men will not have any significant challengers for their primaries.

The state’s attorney general race is also a heavily-watched contest. Pam Bondi, an early Trump supporter, is leaving office due to term limits.

Two attorneys from Tampa, state Rep. Sean Shaw and Ryan Torrens, want Democrats’ votes for the attorney general while the Republicans will choose between state Rep. Frank White and former judge Ashley Moody.

A Tallahassee judge recently issued a stay allowing Torrens to remain on the ballot after Shaw filed a lawsuit alleging he improperly paid for his qualifying fee.

Florida’s early voting turnout is the largest in recent times with more than 1.92 million votes cast by Tuesday morning. Florida has approximately 13 million registered voters.

Polls close at 7 p.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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