Gillum, Nelson have early lead in Florida returns

Published 11-07-2018

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - Florida's governor and Senate races remained tight Tuesday as voters also were electing three Cabinet members and several new members of Congress and decided whether to approve 12 proposed changes to the state's constitution.

Here's a look at the races.

GOVERNOR

Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum and Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis are battling to replace Gov. Rick Scott.

Gillum is trying to become Florida's first African-American governor and end his party's 24-year losing streak.

Gillum had been a surprise winner in August's Democratic primary - of the five major candidates, he spent the least and had little presence on television. DeSantis also began the race as a relative unknown but built his name recognition with more than 100 appearances on Fox News, then won the primary over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam by 20 points.

A Gillum victory would be a defeat for President Donald Trump, who gave DeSantis his strong endorsement and twice campaigned for him in the last week. Scott could not seek re-election because of term limits.

In the general election, Gillum ran a positive campaign, rarely mentioning DeSantis while staking out unabashedly liberal positions on health care, guns and the environment. He also called for an increase in taxes fo

A Gillum victory would be a defeat for President Donald Trump, who gave DeSantis his strong endorsement and twice campaigned for him in the last week. Scott could not seek re-election because of term limits.

In the general election, Gillum ran a positive campaign, rarely mentioning DeSantis while staking out unabashedly liberal positions on health care, guns and the environment. He also called for an increase in taxes for the state's largest corporations to pay for increased spending on schools.

DeSantis spent much of the campaign accusing Gillum of corruption and being a failed mayor.

U.S. SENATE

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott are also neck-and-neck in partial returns as Nelson seeks won a fourth term.

The national Democrats need a Nelson win to keep alive their hope of capturing a Senate majority.

This was most difficult Senate race Nelson had faced. Scott, a wealthy former hospital executive, poured $60 million of his own money into the race.

It was a largely negative campaign, with Nelson criticizing Scott as an untrustworthy Trump supporter who has used the governor's office to increase his wealth. His supporters also hit Scott for the state's environmental problems, calling his "Red Tide Rick" for the deadly algae that has killed millions of fish off the Florida coasts.

Scott depicted Nelson as a confused, empty-suit politician who

DeSantis spent much of the campaign accusing Gillum of corruption and being a failed mayor.

U.S. SENATE

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott are also neck-and-neck in partial returns as Nelson seeks won a fourth term.

The national Democrats need a Nelson win to keep alive their hope of capturing a Senate majority.

This was most difficult Senate race Nelson had faced. Scott, a wealthy former hospital executive, poured $60 million of his own money into the race.

It was a largely negative campaign, with Nelson criticizing Scott as an untrustworthy Trump supporter who has used the governor's office to increase his wealth. His supporters also hit Scott for the state's environmental problems, calling his "Red Tide Rick" for the deadly algae that has killed millions of fish off the Florida coasts.

Scott depicted Nelson as a confused, empty-suit politician who has achieved little in his time in Washington.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Republican Ashley Moody is leading Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw.

Moody is a former judge and federal prosecutor from the Tampa area who has criticized Shaw's lack of experience in the courtroom. Shaw would be Florida's first black attorney general. He is the son of the late state Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw. He campaigned as a consumer advocate and called for new gun restrictions.

The winner will replace Pam Bondi, who could not seek re-election because of term limits. Democrats last won the attorney general's race in 1998.

CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is leading former Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring as he tries to keep the office he was appointed to when Jeff Atwater resigned last year.

Patronis served eight years in the state House and was a member of the board that regulates the state's utilities when Scott appointed him the state's top finance official in June 2017.

Ring is a former Yahoo executive from Broward County. He served in the state Senate from 2006 to 2016.

AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER

Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell is leading Democratic lobbyist and lawyer Nikki Fried in the race to replace departing Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Caldwell is a real estate appraiser and seventh generation Floridian who served as chairman of the House Government Accountability Committee. He served eight years in the House.

Fried based a large part of her campaign advocating for the medical marijuana industry and criticizing the state's implementation of a constitutional amendment approved by voters allowing its use. Fried would be the first woman elected as Florida agriculture commissioner.

Putnam could not seek re-election because of term limits.

CONGRESS

Florida will elect at least four new members of Congress. DeSantis gave up his seat to run for governor and Republican U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Tom Rooney and Dennis Ross are retiring. Several incumbents are also facing competitive challenges.

The Democrats captured a Republican seat, flipping Miami's District 27 seat now held by Ros-Lehtinen. Democrat Donna Shalala, who served as President Bill Clinton's Health and Human Services secretary and as University of Miami president, defeated Republican Maria Elvira Salazar. Salazar is a television journalist who worked for Spanish language networks.

- Republican businessman and former Army Lt. Col. Michael Waltz in District 6 defeated Nancy Soderberg, a former United Nations ambassador and member of Bill Clinton's National Security Council.

- Republican state Rep. Ross Spano leads Democrat Kristen Carlson for the District 15 seat held by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross. Carlson is a former prosecutor who also served as the general counsel for the Florida Department of Citrus.

- Republican state Sen. Greg Steube defeated Democrat Allen Ellison for Rooney's District 17 seat. Ellison replaced April Freeman on the ballot when she died after winning the primary.

- Democratic first-term U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy defeated Republican state Rep. Mike Miller in District 7.

- In District 26, Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is leading Republican U.S Rep. Carlos Curbelo. Mucarsel-Powell has worked for several nonprofit organizations in Miami-Dade County.

- Freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast defeated Democrat Lauren Baer, who was a senior adviser to Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

-Eight-term Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart defeated Democratic former judge Mary Barzee Flores.

BALLOT QUESTIONS

Florida will have 12 proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, all which need 60 percent approval to pass - and all but Amendment 1 were above that threshold. They number 1-7 and 9-13 after the state Supreme Court removed Amendment 8 from the ballot.

Amendment 13 would ban dog racing in Florida by 2021, which would be a blow to the industry that's been dwindling over the past two decades. Only five other states have active dog racing.

Here are the remaining ballot questions:

- Amendment 1 would increase the state's property tax homestead exemption from $50,000 to as much as $75,000 on homes worth more than $100,000.

- Amendment 2 would permanently keep in place a 10 percent cap on property tax assessments for commercial and rental properties that is current law, but is set to expire next year.

-Amendment 3 easily passed. It will require statewide voter approval to expand casino gambling in Florida, taking control out of the hands of the Legislature.

-Amendment 4 passed and could have a long-lasting impact on the state's politics. It will automatically restore the voting rights of felons who complete their sentences. It does not apply to murderers and rapists. More than 1.5 million ex-felons couldn't vote in Florida, and critics of the state's felon voting ban say it disproportionally affects minority voters who tend to support Democrats. 

- Amendment 5 would require a two-thirds majority vote before the Legislature could increase taxes or fees.

- Amendment 6 would provide additional rights to crime victims and would raise the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75.

- Amendment 7 would require a supermajority vote before state university boards of trustees can raise fees. It would also pay death benefits, including help with education expenses, to the survivors of first responders who die on the job.

- Amendment 9 would prohibit oil drilling in state waters and ban vaping in work places where smoking is already prohibited.

- Amendment 10 would require the state to create an Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism and maintain a Department of Veterans Affairs, which already exists. It would set the start of the annual legislative session to January instead of March in even-numbered years and require counties to elect a sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, elections supervisor and circuit court clerk.

- Amendment 11 would allow the Legislature to make some changes to criminal laws retroactive. It would also repeal language in the constitution that's now considered obsolete. It easily passed.

- Amendment 12 passed. It bans elected officials, agency heads, judges and others from paid lobbying while serving and for six years after leaving office instead of the current two. 

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For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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