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Marco Rubio Wins Fla. Sen. Race

Marco Rubio Wins Fla. Sen. Race

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In a closely watched Florida Senate race that included a stunning about-face on LGBT issues from independent candidate and current governor Charlie Crist, Republican Marco Rubio won by a decisive margin, as widely expected.

Shortly after 8 p.m., when polls closed in Florida, with 34% of the vote counted, Rubio had 50%, compared to 29% for Crist and 20% for Congressman Kendrick Meek, the Democrat.

Just days ago, President Bill Clinton reportedly had urged Meek to quit the race in order to help the prospects of Crist, a Republican who switched to the independent label to bolster his chances against Rubio earlier this year.

Rubio, a staunch social conservative who garnered Tea Party support but perhaps not the enthusiasm that followed Sharron Angle in Nevada, is expected to replicate the antigay positions of former senator Mel Martinez, who resigned last year. The seat has been occupied in the interim by George LeMieux, a Crist appointee.

While a Rubio win in this way maintains the status quo for LGBT Floridians, Crist's reversal represents one of the race's more intriguing turns. The governor, who opposed adoption by gay people when he ran for office in 2006, announced last month that he would not enforce Florida's draconian adoption ban, which a state appellate court struck down last month and the attorney general has declined to appeal. Also in his bid to court more progressive voters as an independent, he issued a position paper in which he endorsed a broad package of gay rights, including open military service and employment nondiscrimination but stopping short of full marriage equality.

The question remains if the turn of events for Crist represents change LGBT Floridians can believe in wherever his political career takes him next. He will not be returning to the governor's mansion in Tallahassee. Just before 9 p.m., Democrat Alex Sink was trailing Republican Rick Scott in the gubernatorial contest, which could hold more immediate implications for gay rights in the state.

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