She will face Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson who had no primary opponents and has a strong lead over Harris in the polls.
After polls closed, Harris addressed supporters at her headquarters in Tampa: “Tonight I say to Bill Nelson: Come home, Bill. Enough is enough,” Harris said.
She won 50 percent of the vote over three little-known opponents — Orlando lawyer Will McBride, retired Navy Adm. LeRoy Collins Jr. and Peter Monroe, a developer.
Heading into Tuesday’s primary election, Harris had the advantages of name recognition as secretary of state and two terms in the U.S. House and strong support from Florida’s Republicans who credited her with sending President Bush to the White House after she oversaw Florida’s 2000 recount.
But these are the qualities that worry Republicans who fear that animosity toward Harris on November’s ballot could spike Democratic turnout and hurt Republicans across the board. State GOP leaders urged Harris not to run but had trouble finding a high-profile candidate to challenge her in the primary.
Harris’ campaign suffered several setbacks including fund-raising shortages, staff members quitting and a series of controversial comments made by Harris. She at one point called the separation of church and state a “lie we have been told” and that “if you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin.”
In the governor’s race to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, GOP Attorney General Charlie Crist will face Democrat Rep. Jim Davis, both of whom beat primary challengers for the nomination.
Crist won 64 percent of the vote ahead of state Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher’s 34 percent with 80 percent of precincts reporting.
“It’s wonderful, wonderful news,” Crist said after being declared the winner. “All I want to be is the people’s governor, and they should rest assured that if they elect me in November, no one will fight harder for the people.”
Davis had a narrow win over state Sen. Rod Smith with 47 percent to Smith’s 42 percent.
Election officials said the primary ran smoothly compared to the troubles encountered in 2000 and 2002. Voter turnout was lower than expected due to rain in parts of the state.