THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, June 16, 2014..........Forget suspense. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist are in the race for governor.
The Republican incumbent governor and his leading Democratic challenger formally qualified Monday to run in what will be a nasty, big-bucks campaign. The sniping between the Scott and Crist camps has been building for months, and qualifying was one more reason to unload on each other.
"Rick Scott officially asked Florida voters for another term today, but the truth is Florida‚s middle class can‚t afford four more years of Rick Scott,'' state Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant said in a statement emailed to reporters.
Scott, meanwhile, touted his release of three years of tax returns, saying he wanted to "provide even more transparency to the public." Then he challenged Crist, a former Republican governor who has been out of office since early 2011, to provide old tax returns.
"I hope that Charlie Crist will follow our lead and take the same steps today by releasing his and his spouse‚s tax returns,'' Scott said. "His immediate public production of these tax returns for 2011 and 2012 is important to provide the people of Florida the transparency they deserve."
Before Scott and Crist can throw down in November, however, they will have to win party primaries.
Two Republicans, Yinka Abosede Adeshina of Tallahassee and Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder of Sarasota, qualified Monday for the GOP primary. Democrat Nan Rich, a former Senate minority leader from Weston, is expected to qualify Tuesday. Also waiting for the winners of the primaries will be a Libertarian candidate, with Adrian Wyllie of Palm Harbor qualifying Monday.
State candidates are required to qualify this week for the 2014 elections, with the qualifying period starting at noon Monday and running through noon Friday. Primaries will be held Aug. 26, with the general election Nov. 4.
The three incumbent Republican Cabinet members --- Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam --- quickly qualified on the first day. Their challengers had not qualified as of a 5 p.m. listing on the state Division of Elections website.
Also, dozens of legislative candidates qualified Monday. As of 5 p.m., 19 Senate candidates were listed as qualified, including 10 incumbents.
The Senate qualifiers included Boca Raton Republican Joseph Bensmihen, who will run in District 34 in Palm Beach and Broward counties. That will be one of the most closely watched legislative districts in the state, as former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, hopes to unseat Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, in a rematch from a 2012 race.
But Bensmihen's entrance into the race ensures that Bogdanoff, who had not qualified Monday afternoon, will face at least one Republican primary challenger. A financial disclosure filed as part of qualifying indicates Bensmihen has several business interests in South Florida, including home-health care companies.
Also qualifying Monday was Sen. John Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican who is widely considered the leading contender to become president of Florida State University.
As it remains unclear how long a muddled university search process will last, Thrasher qualified to seek re-election in Senate District 6, which includes all of St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam counties and part of Volusia County. Also qualifying for the race were fellow Republican Derek Hankerson and no-party-affiliation candidate Greg Feldman.
From our media partner The News Service of Florida