Florida Republican Attorney General Charlie Crist swept to an easy victory Tuesday with a margin of 52% to 45% over Democratic candidate Jim Davis. Crist was never behind during the evening as statewide precincts reported their results, and Davis conceded relatively early in the evening.
Reform Party candidate Max Linn turned in a disappointing third party challenge, winning only 1.94% of the statewide vote. A late bloomer who just a week ago crashed the televised Governor’s Race debate, Linn had very little name recognition.
Crist campaigned on a mostly conservative platform, pledging to continue popular Governor Jeb Bush’s programs, and was strongly supported by the Governor. Crist outspent his opponent by a large margin and ran a professional, savvy campaign. His most serious misstep was to snub President George W. Bush at a rally in Pensacola over election weekend. Crist, who was campaigning in South Florida when Bush was in Pensacola, sought to distance himself from the beleaguered President, but later thanked him during his victory speech Tuesday night, during which he promised Florida’s citizens “less taxing, less government, and more freedom” while he is Governor.
Republican Bill McCollum won Crist’s old job of Attorney General, while Republican Charles Bronson held onto his Agriculture Commissioner job.
Democrat Alex Sink, whose husband, Bill McBride ran unsuccesfully for Governor in 2002, won the Chief Financial Officer race handily on her impressive credentials as the former President of Bank of America-Florida. As CFO, Ms. Sink will be the state’s top business regulator; and as a cabinet officer, she will be an active participant in setting state policy on such important issues as environmental protection, law enforcement, and land use.
The GOP did not fare as well in Florida’s Congressional races, suffering a net loss of two critical seats. With a total House delegation of 19 seats, Florida will send 16 Republicans and 3 Democrats to Washington.
Republican Joe Negron, the Party-designated replacement for disgraced Congressman Mark Foley, narrowly lost the District 16 seat to Democrat Tim Mahoney by a margin of 2,293 votes out of a total of 199,780 cast. Independent Emmie Ross, who captured 5,489 votes in the District, may well have been the spoiler in this race.
The GOP’s most significant stumble in Florida was veteran Congressman E. Clay Shaw Jr.’s 49% (93,742 votes) to 51% (101,902 votes) loss to Ron Klein, a Boca Raton lawyer and lobbyist. The loss ends Shaw’s 26 year tenure in Congress.
With Shaw’s defeat, the Republicans lose his House Ways and Means Committee seat, as well as his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade. He also sat on the Joint Commitee on Taxation.
At the end of the day, the Florida GOP kept its grasp on state politics, but did little to help the RNC hold onto the House of Representatives.