Florida voters headed to the polls on Tuesday for a primary election that will set up one of the nation's most expensive and closely watched governor's races.
Despite weeks of early and absentee voting, low turnout was expected in state primaries lacking an exciting top-of-the-ticket competition.
Democrats get their first chance to show their enthusiasm levels for Charlie Crist, the state's governor as a Republican from 2007 to 2011 who now wants the job back under a different party affiliation.
Crist was heavily favored to win the Democratic primary against Nan Rich, a former state legislator from south Florida. But voting margins could foretell his chances in the November general election, when turnout among liberal voters in the party's base will be critical.
"Any vote cast for anybody but Crist is an anti-Crist vote," said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor overseeing the U.S. Senate and governor's races for the Washington-based Cook Political Report. "Let's see what that number looks like."
Republican Governor Rick Scott faced largely token primary opposition from two little-known challengers.
Polls show a virtually tied race between Scott and Crist, who already are trading attacks in televised political ads.
"Rick Scott is a polarizing figure," said Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, also based in Washington.
Experts predict a nasty, tight race to the finish in November as both parties compete for a major bully pulpit going into the 2016 presidential election.
"Florida is the biggest swing state in the country in presidential elections," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. "The party that controls the governor's mansion in Florida has a slight leg up."
The only other major statewide primary race featured two Democratic hopefuls for the Florida cabinet, currently controlled by Republicans.
Democrats George Seldon and Perry Thurston are vying to challenge incumbent Attorney General Pam Bondi in November.
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