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Democrats give Crist easy primary win in bid to once again be Fla. governor

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist waves to supporters while speaking at a victory party after Florida's primary election, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He is the first person in Florida to win the nomination for governor as a Republican and a Democrat. Wilfredo Lee, AP

Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist waves to supporters while speaking at a victory party after Florida’s primary election, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He is the first person in Florida to win the nomination for governor as a Republican and a Democrat.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — If there were any doubts that former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist would be accepted by Florida Democrats, they were cast aside as he overwhelmingly earned the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott in his effort to return to the governor’s mansion.

Crist easily defeated former state Sen. Nan Rich on Tuesday, while Scott coasted in his own primary toward a general election matching the state’s last two Republican governors. It’s a contest that’s already been brutally negative with Scott spending millions on ads attacking Crist since he announced in November that he was seeking his old job with his new party.

Unofficial returns in Florida, with 99.9 precincts reporting, showed Crist with a nearly 3-to-1 lead over Rich, who had been campaigning for governor longer than Crist has been a Democrat.

Since leaving the GOP, Crist has been courting the LGBT vote, and now hops to lock in those Democrats who have been skeptical of his conversion. Even some of Crist’s supporters indicated their vote was more about beating Scott than supporting Crist.

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When he ran for governor eight years ago as a Republican, Crist opposed same-sex marriage. In 2010, when he ran for U.S. Senate as an independent, he declared his support for civil unions.

Now, running for his old job as a Democrat, Crist has apologized for supporting the ban, says he now backs same-sex marriage and supports legal efforts to overturn Florida’s constitutional ban.

He has also pledged to sign orders banning discrimination against gay and transgender employees at agencies under his control and their contractors.

Crist has been endorsed by Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBT rights advocacy organization.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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