September 28, 2022

Campaign signs are seen outside of a polling station in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Tuesday.
Campaign signs are seen outside of a polling station in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Tuesday. (Saul Martinez/Getty Images)

Primary voters in Florida are heading to the polls today to decide who will challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis in November. Two Democrats — Rep. Charlie Crist and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — are facing off for the chance to take on the Republican incumbent.

CNN spoke to some voters outside a polling place just north of downtown St. Petersburg, Florida:  

Ken Smith, a 60-year-old Black man and registered Democrat, said he voted for Crist. “He’s been governor before. He has name recognition,” he said.

Smith called Crist a “bridge builder.”

“Even though he was at one time a Republican, he has worked with Democrats to get things done,” he added.

Rep Charlie Crist speaks to the media before voting in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Tuesday.
Rep Charlie Crist speaks to the media before voting in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Tuesday. (Chris O’Meara/AP)

Smith told CNN he was unsure if Crist “has that great of a chance” against DeSantis because the governor “has such a war chest.”

“DeSantis is really running for president,” Smith added.

He told CNN that the big issue for him in this election is “climate,” adding, “and that’s for my daughter who is 17.”

“The impacts of climate change are going to be felt more by her,” he said.

Stephen Simon, a 79-year-old White man and registered Republican, said of the Democrats in the race, Crist has the best chance against DeSantis.

“Charlie Crist has a great reputation. He’s the only one that I see,” Simon said.

Asked what he thinks the impact of the Mar-a-Lago search and seizure of classified documents from former President Donald Trump will be on the midterms, Simon said, “It’s going to piss off the Republicans. That’s for damn sure.”

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried visits a restaurant in Miami on Monday.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried visits a restaurant in Miami on Monday. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

If he had to choose between Trump or DeSantis, Simon said he would back the former President.

“I would vote for Trump. I mean, I love DeSantis, but look at what he (Trump) did…best economy we’ve ever had. Judge a person by their accomplishments,” Simon said.

He added: “Democrats destroyed the border. They’re destroying the country.”

Rachel, a 35-year-old White Democrat woman, who declined to provide her last name, said she voted for Crist.

On the issues that she and her friends discussed related to the race, she said, “We’ve talked about climate. We talk about abortion.”

“I’m definitely pro-choice, so that played a big role in my decision (to vote),” she added.

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