general Charlie Crist won the Republican nomination
Tuesday to replace Gov. Jeb Bush, soundly defeating state
chief financial officer Tom Gallagher, a same-sex
marriage foe. With 53% of precincts reporting, Crist
had 63.5% of the vote, compared with 33.9% for Gallagher.
A loud roar went up in Crist's hotel suite as he
told family and supporters that the Associated Press
had called the race. He will face the Democratic
nominee, U.S. representative Jim Davis or state senator
Rod Smith, in the November general election.
"I am enormously grateful to the people of
Florida. It's wonderful, wonderful news," Crist said.
"We have to work that much harder. It's just the first
half, and there's a long way to go."
Crist ran as someone who champions consumer
causes and Jeb Bush's policies, at least when it comes
to crime, taxes, and education. But he wasn't afraid
to step out of line with the governor on some issues. He
questioned Bush's decision to intervene in the Terri Schiavo
right-to-die case and said that he won't try to change
the class size limits that the governor tried and
failed to put back on the ballot.
"All I want to be is the people's governor, and
they should rest assured that if they elect me in
November, no one will fight harder for the people than
Charlie Crist," he said. "This is a time when we need
all of Florida to come together--Republicans,
Democrats, and independents."
Gallagher lost despite positioning himself to
come across almost exactly the same as Bush all the
way down the line, abandoning a more moderate stance
on social issues from the last time he ran for governor in
favor of far-right positions opposing all
abortions, same-sex marriage, adoption by gays, and
stem cell research. He also promised to outlaw
billboards for adult businesses like strip clubs.
"Charlie has run a great race against a
formidable opponent and will be an excellent candidate
in the general election. I look forward to campaigning
hard for his election," Bush said.
At the Crist victory party at the Renaissance
Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg, supporters were
hugging and shaking hands as rock music blared. It was
a different scene at the Wyndham Grand Bay in Miami's
Coconut Grove neighborhood, where Gallagher supporters
turned off the television as results came in.
Instead, they showed slides of Gallagher
campaigning. At one point a small group of supporters
brought out a laptop to check returns but quickly put
it away. Both candidates raised a lot of money for the race,
with Crist taking in almost $13.9 million compared with $9.2
million for Gallagher. (Melissa Nelson, AP)