Florida primary: Democratic race for governor in spotlight

U.S. Rep Charlie Crist, D-Fla., waves to photographers after voting Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, in...
U.S. Rep Charlie Crist, D-Fla., waves to photographers after voting Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Crist is running for Florida Governor against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the primary election. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)(The Associated Press)
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 6:33 PM EDT
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The Democratic primary pits U.S. Rep. and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is currently the only elected Democrat in Florida to hold a statewide seat. The winner will face Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has no primary opponents, in November. Crist served as governor from 2007 to 2011. He unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate as an independent in 2010 and for governor as a Democrat in 2014.


Former Orlando-area State Attorney Aramis Ayala and Dan Uhlfelder are among three Democrats hoping to challenge Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody, who doesn’t have a primary opponent. Ayala received national attention for refusing to seek the death penalty in murder cases. Uhlfelder has been a frequent critic of DeSantis and made headlines by walking Panhandle beaches dressed as the Grim Reaper to protest the governor’s COVID-19 policies.


Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson is running in the GOP primary against little-known candidate James Shaw. Three Democrats — Naomi Blemur, J.R. Gaillot and Ryan Morales — are on the primary ballot, though none has raised enough money or has the name recognition to run a credible statewide campaign.


Incumbent Republican Jimmy Patronis has no GOP opposition for chief financial officer. He will face Democratic former state Rep. Adam Hattersley, who also has no opposition, in the November general election.


Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings is running against three little-known, underfunded candidates for her party’s nomination to face Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has no primary challenger.


Florida voters will elect at least six new members of Congress this year – four because incumbents are retiring or seeking higher office and two because of the creation of a new district and the redrawing of a current district, which pits two incumbents against each other. Here are the key primaries:

—District 1 (Florida Panhandle):

Republican incumbent Matt Gaetz is being challenged by Mark Lombardo and Greg Merk. In 2020, Gaetz won the primary with 80.9% of the vote against Merk and another candidate. This year, Lombardo, a veteran and business executive, is hoping that GOP voters in the western Panhandle have been turned off by Gaetz’s frequent inflammatory remarks. Lombardo has sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money into the race.

—District 2 (Florida Panhandle):

No primary is being held. Democratic Rep. Al Lawson will face Republican Rep. Neal Dunn in a redrawn congressional district in November.

—District 3 (north Florida):

Incumbent Rep. Kat Cammack faces Justin Waters, a juvenile law attorney, in the Republican primary. Danielle Hawk, a digital project manager and community activist, faces Tom Wells, president of radar company World Radomes Inc., in the Democratic race.

—District 4 (northeast Florida):

State Sen. Aaron Bean is among three Republicans seeking this open Jacksonville-area seat. The other two are Erick Aguilar and Jon Chuba. On the Democratic side, former state Sen. Anthony Hill faces LaShonda Holloway, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2020. Republicans have an advantage in the district.

—District 5 (north Florida):

Republican Rep. John Rutherford faces two less-funded challengers: homemaker Mara Macie and cosmetologist Leigha Lopez. No Democrats are running for the seat.

—District 6 (north Florida):

GOP Rep. Michael Waltz faces businessman Charles E. Davis. There is also a libertarian candidate on the November ballot, but no Democrat.

—District 7 (central Florida):

Eight Republicans and four Democrats are seeking the seat left open by Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s decision to leave Congress. The district extends from Seminole County to the Atlantic Coast and now leans Republican after redistricting. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini is among the Republican candidates. Among Democrats are Karen Green, a former Florida Democratic Party vice chair, and Al Krulick, who has run unsuccessfully for Congress three other times.

—District 8 (central Florida):

The Republican incumbent, Rep. Bill Posey, has no opposition in the GOP primary. Joanne Terry, a retired satellite systems engineer, and Danelle Dodge, a small business owner, are running in the Democratic primary.

—District 9 (central Florida):

Democratic Rep. Darren Soto is unopposed in the primary and will face the winner of the Republican primary in November. The Republican candidates are Walt Disney World executive Jose Castillo, Christian nonprofit worker Scotty Moore, pastor and Republican activist Adianis Morales and real estate broker Sergio Ortiz.

_District 10 (central Florida):

Ten Democrats and six Republicans are seeking the seat left open by Democratic Rep. Val Demings’ decision to run for Senate. Democratic candidates include former U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Alan Grayson. Brown is a convicted felon from Jacksonville and Grayson is an outspoken former congressman whose inflammatory comments have generated headlines. His two recent efforts to return to Washington have failed. Social justice activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost has a money advantage and a number of high-profile endorsements. State Sen. Randolph Bracy is also in the primary for the firmly Democratic district.

—District 11 (north Florida):

Nationally known far-right activist Laura Loomer, who’s been banned by several social media platforms because of anti-Muslim and other remarks, is challenging incumbent Republican Dan Webster, who has served central Florida districts since 2011.

—District 12 (north Florida):

Four Republicans are running in the primary against incumbent Rep. Gus Bilirakis. They are Chris Leiser, a construction firm operator; Jack Martin, a retired pastor and fire department chaplain; Brian Perras, a former actor who works in real estate; and Sid Preskitt, who worked for a commercial dive training business. Democrat Kimberly Walker, a Treasury Department contractor and military veteran, has no primary challenger.

—District 13 (Tampa Bay area):

Five Republicans are seeking the nomination in the St. Petersburg-area seat left open when Crist decided to run for governor. It is essentially a rematch between Anna Paulina Luna and Amanda Makki, who came in first and second, respectively, in a five-way primary two years ago. The formerly competitive seat now leans Republican. The winner will face Democrat Eric Lynn, who worked in President Barack Obama’s administration.

—District 14 (Tampa Bay area):

Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor is facing a primary challenge from Christopher Bradley, a cyber-defense and tech expert. Republican candidates are James Judge, a public relations executive and former Coast Guard officer; Samar Nashagh, a former Marine and media production project manager; and Jerry Torres, a defense contractor.

_District 15 (Tampa Bay area):

Five Republicans are competing for the new district east of Tampa. The top candidates include former Secretary of State Laura Lee, state Sen. Kelli Stargel and state Rep. Jackie Toledo. Five Democrats are also seeking the nomination in the district, which heavily favors Republicans.

—District 16 (Tampa Bay area):

Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan is being challenged in the GOP primary by businessman Martin Hyde. Democrat Jan Schneider, an international lawyer and author, is unopposed and will take on the winner.

—District 17 (southwest Florida):

No primary is being held. GOP Rep. Greg Steube will face Democrat Andrea Doria Kale and a no-party candidate in November.

—District 18 (central Florida):

Four Republicans qualified to run in the primary against incumbent GOP Rep. Scott Franklin. They are businessman Kenneth Hartpence, attorney Jennifer Raybon, teacher Wendy Schmeling and cigar company owner Eduardo Tarazona. There is no Democratic candidate.

—District 19: (southwest Florida):

First-term Rep. Byron Donalds is opposed by engineer Jim Huff in the Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat Cindy Banyai in November.

_District 20 (South Florida):

Democratic U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is facing primary competition in the seat she won in a special election earlier this year. Former Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, who lost to Cherfilus-McCormick by five votes, and state Rep. Anika Omphroy are also running for the seat, which includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

—District 21 (South Florida):

Incumbent Rep. Brian Mast has three challengers in the Republican primary. They are businessman Jeff Buongiorno, attorney and nonprofit founder Melissa Martz, and medical professional Ljubo Skrbic. Democrat Corinna Balderramos Robinson awaits the winner in November.

—District 22 (South Florida):

Five Republicans are competing in the primary for the chance to take on Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel, who is unopposed in the Democratic stronghold. The Republicans are financial adviser Deborah Adeimy, crisis consultant Peter Arianas, attorney and Navy veteran Rod Dorilas, financial investor Dan Franseze and financial investor Carrie Lawlor.

_District 23 (South Florida):

Six Democrats and seven Republicans are running for the South Florida seat left open by Democratic Rep Ted Deutch’s decision to retire. The most prominent name among Democrats is Jared Moskowitz, the former state representative who helped pass gun legislation after the high school shooting massacre in Parkland, and who served as DeSantis’ emergency management director. The seat is firmly Democratic.

—District 24 (South Florida):

Veteran Rep. Frederica Wilson faces police officer Kevin Harris in the Democratic primary. Two Republicans are also running in the district, which is heavily Democratic. They are Jesus Navarro, who works for disability mobility firm, and Lavern Spicer, a small-business owner.

—District 25 (South Florida):

Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is being challenged by accountant Robert Millwee. Two Republicans are facing off for the seat, which is solidly Democratic: registered nurse Carla Spalding and retired military veteran Rubin Young.

—District 26 (South Florida):

Longtime GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart is running against disability advocate Darren Aquino in the Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat Christine Alexandria Olivo, who is unopposed.

_District 27 (South Florida):

State Sen. Annette Taddeo, who was Crist’s lieutenant governor running mate in 2014, and Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell are among three Democratic candidates hoping to challenge Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar. The Miami-area district has switched parties several times in recent years.

—District 28 (South Florida):

Incumbent Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez has two lesser-known challengers: energy consultant Karl Miller and actor Carlos Garin. Robert Ascencio, a retired schools police chief and former state legislator, and Juan Parades, who works in the computer industry, are facing off in the Democratic primary. A write-in candidate is also vying for the seat.