TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Incumbent senators easily won primary contests Tuesday, dominating races that never seriously threatened their bids for re-election.
Republicans Thad Altman of Rockledge, Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers, Jack Latvala of Clearwater, Joe Negron of Stuart and John Thrasher of St. Augustine cruised to victories, as did Democrats Geraldine Thompson of Orlando and Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens.
Thompson was expected to have the most competitive race, as she ran in Senate District 12 against former Sen. Gary Siplin — but she nearly doubled his share of the vote, winning by a margin of 64 percent to 35 percent.
Thompson said the citizens of her Orange County district “sent a very strong message that they want ethical and sensible leadership in the Florida Senate. They rejected the pay-to-play politics that Gary Siplin was known for.”
Thompson will face Republican primary winner Edward DeAguilera, who edged Fritz Jackson Seide 54 percent to 45 percent.
The closest race featuring an incumbent was Benacquisto’s win, by a margin of 59 percent to 40 percent, over Michael Dreikorn in the GOP primary for Senate District 30, which includes parts of Lee and Charlotte counties.
Altman won the GOP primary in Senate District 16, which includes parts of Brevard and Indian River counties. He beat challenger Monique Miller, 65 percent to 34 percent, and said he was a bit surprised by his margin of victory.
“We were strong early, but wow — there was just a slew of negative attacks,” he said. “I’d never seen anything like it.” But Altman said he was proud of running a clean campaign. “We took the high road, and it’s kind of nice that people see through this negativity that we have in our political world today. It’s really gotten out of hand, and I hope we can clean it up.”
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Altman faces write-in candidate Lloyd Stanton French in November.
Thrasher, the Senate rules chairman, won the Republican primary for Senate District 6, which includes all or parts of St. Johns, Flagler, Volusia and Putnam counties, by a margin of 70 percent to Derek Hankerson’s 30 percent. Thrasher will face Democrat Kathleen Trued and no-party candidate Greg Feldman in November.
“Tonight’s win echoes that our local Republicans share the same priorities of continuing to reduce government waste and spending, improving our education system and growing our job base in Northeast Florida,” Thrasher said in a statement.
Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who is chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, won 87 percent of the vote in his primary against Zahid Roy’s 13 percent in Pinellas County’s District 20. Latvala will run against Libertarian Tony Caso in November.
Meanwhile, Negron, a Stuart Republican who is chairman of the Appropriations Committee, had about 85 percent of the vote to Brandon Cannon’s 15 percent in District 32, which includes parts of Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties.
Negron, who will face Democrat Bruno Moore in November, said he was pleasantly surprised by the margin of victory. “It means a lot to me personally that my community has given me this vote of confidence tonight,” he said.
Braynon beat his primary opponent, North Miami Democrat Anis “Auguste” Blemur, by a margin of 69 to 31 percent in the contest for Senate District 36, which includes parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Braynon faces write-in candidate William Burton Moreland in November.
This report is by Margie Menzel with The News Service of Florida.