TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — All seven of the state's incumbent U.S. House members who drew primary opposition won their races Tuesday while former Florida House Speaker and ex-Sen. Daniel Webster earned an opportunity to challenge outspoken Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson.
Also, in South Florida state Sen. Federica Wilson of Miami Gardens defeated eight Democratic opponents including four candidates who failed in their bids to become the first Haitian-American elected to Congress.
In central Florida's 8th District, Webster of Winter Garden won a seven-way race for the Republican nomination. In November he'll face Grayson, who was unopposed in the primary. The freshman congressman from Orlando is one of the GOP's top targets nationally.
"We are looking forward to contrasting Dan Webster's record of conservative, principled leadership and statesman-like conduct with Alan Grayson's outlandish record of self-promotion," said Florida Republican Party Chairman John Thrasher, also a state senator from St. Augustine.
Grayson's campaign manager did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The general election will include Tea Party candidate Peg Dunmire who immediately challenged Webster and Grayson to debate. She's one of three Tea Party candidates running for congressional seats in Florida. The party, though, is not connected with the Republican-leaning tea party movement, which fielded several primary candidates who lost or were losing their races Tuesday.
Among the incumbents, Rep. Allen Boyd had the closest call in the Panhandle's 2nd District. Also on the GOP hit list, the seven-term congressman from Monticello won by just under three percentage points with 99 percent of the expected votes counted in his primary race against Florida Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson of Tallahassee. Panama City funeral home owner Steve Southerland defeated four other Republicans and will take on Boyd in November.
Incumbent Democratic Reps. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, Kathy Castor of Tampa and Suzanne Kosmas of New Smyrna Beach and Ron Klein of Boca Raton also won their races. Reps. Cliff Stearns of Ocala and Vern Buchanan of Sarasota, the only sitting Republicans with primary challengers, both were early winners.
At least a half-dozen tea party activists were on the primary ballot but all lost or were losing.
Several primary races attracted multiple candidates, none more than in the 17th District, where the four Haitian-American candidates were trying to make history.
Haitian-American physician Rudy Moise of North Miami came in second to Wilson. The other Haitian-American candidates were state Rep. Yolly Roberson and her ex-husband, former Rep. Phillip Brutus, and women's activist Marleine Bastien of Miami.
The crowded field sought the seat being given up by Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami, who won the Democratic primary the U.S. Senate. Others running included Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson and state Rep. James Bush.
No Republican is running, but independent Roderick Vereen, a Miami lawyer, will oppose the Democratic nominee in November.
Meek's seat is one of five vacancies in Florida's 25-member House delegation although one is spoken for. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is giving up his 25th District seat but already has been elected without opposition in the nearby 21st District where his older brother, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, is retiring. Both brothers are Miami Republicans.
Democrats are targeting the younger Diaz-Balart's old seat. Former Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee chairman Joe Garcia, who polled 47 percent there in a loss two years ago, won his primary. State Rep. David Rivera took the Republican nomination.
Hernando County Sheriff Jim Nugent defeated tea party activist Jason Sager in the Republican primary for the seat being vacated by Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, in north-central Florida.
Some potential candidates may have stayed out of the 5th District race because Brown-Waite didn't announce her retirement and endorsement of Nugent as her replacement until the last day of qualifying. The GOP winner will face Lutz Democrat Jim Piccillo, a business consultant.