Charlie Crist: Florida Democrats select challenger to Governor Ron DeSantis in US primary

Special election victory in New York seen as litmus test on abortion rights

Congressman Charlie Crist won the Democratic nomination to challenge Florida Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis in the election for state governor. AP
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Congressman Charlie Crist won the Democratic nomination for governor of the state of Florida on Tuesday night, setting up a challenge against Governor Ron DeSantis in a campaign that could be the first step on the Republican's possible path to the White House.

Although he lost his two previous statewide elections, Mr Crist is viewed by Florida Democrats as the safest choice to battle the Republican incumbent. Mr Crist, a moderate, hopes to appeal to voters in Florida's suburbs as Democrats look to bounce back from a string of electoral losses in the Sunshine State.

Democrats in Florida also sense an urgency to slow down Mr DeSantis's momentum, for whom a re-election in November would serve as a launch pad for a presidential run in 2024.

Mr Crist decried Mr DeSantis as an abusive and dangerous bully in his victory speech.

Mr DeSantis won his first election by less than half a percentage point but quickly became a prominent figure in Republican circles. His populist approach during the Covid-19 pandemic and willingness to lean into divisive issues such as race and gender have prompted Republican voters to view him as an heir to former president Donald Trump.

Democrats celebrate New York win seen as litmus test on abortion rights

Democrats celebrated a victory in a US special election as the latest indicator of the public mood on abortion rights as the party seeks to make it a central issue in their midterm campaign.

In the battle for New York's 19th congressional district, Democrat Pat Ryan was projected to win after he sought to turn the vote into a referendum on abortion access, US media outlets projected.

“Choice was on the ballot. Freedom was on the ballot, and tonight choice and freedom won,” Mr Ryan tweeted after he was forecast to triumph.

Mr Ryan's victory “sends a clear message that voters are fighting back against Republicans' extreme attacks on abortion rights”, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Sean Patrick Maloney said in a statement quoted by NBC.

New York also had several primary elections, including a vote pitting Democratic representatives Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney against each another. Mr Nadler won comfortably, taking 55.4 per cent to 24.4 per cent for Ms Maloney with more than 95 per cent of votes counted. The result ended Ms Maloney's 30-year tenure in Congress.

Agencies contribute to this report

Updated: August 25, 2022, 5:36 AM