TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and Dale Holness are neck and neck in the the Democratic primary to replace late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, while the Republican side had a clear-cut winner.

As of Wednesday, former Broward Mayor Dale Holness was just nine votes ahead of Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, in the race to replace the late Alcee Hastings.

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Businessman Jason Mariner won the Republican primary, defeating Greg Musselwhite, but is considered a longshot to win the general election in the overwhelmingly Democratic district that includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Hastings was first elected in 1992. The other nine Democrats seeking the nomination were state House Democratic Leader Bobby DuBose, state Rep. Omari Hardy, state Sen. Perry Thurston, Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, author and former National Urban League chief of staff Elvin Dowling, retired Navy petty officer Phil Jackson, business consulting firm founder Emmanuel Morel and physician Dr. Imran Uddin Siddiqui.

Democrat Patricia Robinson of Miramar said with such a large field, it was a difficult choice. She voted for Holness because she felt he will be more pragmatic in what he can achieve in a divided Congress.

“We really need true servants with realistic goals for the people to make things better for this country,” she said.

Turnout was about 16%. The district is more than 61% Democratic and about 13% Republican. In the 2020 election, Hastings earned 78.7% of the vote to defeat Republican Greg Musselwhite, whom Mariner defeated in this year’s primary.

Cherfilus-McCormick loaned her campaign more than $3.7 million and has far outspent the other Democrats in the race. Sharief was the second-highest spender as of mid-October, with about $700,000 in expenditures.

“She’s a courageous woman. She’s beautiful and can get the job done,” said resident Maxine Anderson.

Former Broward Democratic leader Mitch Ceasar says some voters liked Mccormick’s sense of optimism.

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“If there’s one thing we saw Tuesday voters don’t want the status quo,” he said.

Next step is a recount in both Broward and Palm Beach counties which could begin
as early as Friday.

Holness is not too worried about the outcome.

“Historically, recounts hold to results before, so I ought not to worry too much,” he said.

Heading into Election Day, out of the more than 345,000 eligible primary voters, nearly 33,000 Democrats and more than 4,000 Republicans had already cast votes.

Republican Kevin Cerino, who voted for the GOP’s Mariner, readily acknowledged that the seat will “absolutely” go to the Democratic winner.

“It is what it is,” said Cerino, who didn’t sound enthusiastic about his choice. “Mariner seems to be slightly less of a clown than the other guy running. This kind of district that’s so overwhelmingly Democratic, you’re not going to get a quality candidate.”

The district is nearly 54% Black. Every Democrat on the ballot is a person of color, while the two Republicans are white.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)