Live blogging from Charlie Crist primary victory in South Florida

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Democratic candidate Charlie Crist now has a free-and-clear agenda for November — unseating incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Surprising virtually no one, Crist took a decisive victory for the Democratic nomination for governor Tuesday evening, dominating his opponent, progressive former state Sen. Nan Rich from Weston.

The former governor accepted the nomination at an election watch party at the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six in Ft. Lauderdale,  joined by a crowd of about 500 enthusiastic supporters, well-wishers and media.

Although winning the Democratic primary was a foregone conclusion for Crist, predicted by every poll since he entered the race in November, the real issue was the margin of victory. The final numbers are seen as a bellwether of Democratic support for Crist, especially in Rich’s home county of Broward.

A tidbit for those political gamblers out there — the over/under for Crist, the Republican-turned-Democrat stands at 30 points.

As of 7:30 p.m, one half hour after polls closed in a majority of the state, early returns in Broward County have Crist leading 76 to 24 percent.

Update: 8:15:

“Charlie, Charlie,” the crowd chants, as the audience swells to closer to 600. Crist is expected to speak at 8:30 p.m.

Update 8:40 p.m.:

Waiting for Charlie …

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Early results as of 8:50 p.m:

Hillsborough County —  77  percent Crist/23 percent Rich.

Pinellas County — 80 percent Crist/ 20 percent Rich.

Broward County — 76 percent Crist/24 percent Rich.

Update 9:00 p.m.:

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel starts a speech with a shout-out to Rich, who she just spoke with.

“She’s spent her entire career focusing on the issues that matter to Florida’s families,” Frankel said. “I have enormous respect for her.”

Update 9;10 p.m.

U.S. Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz next took the stage, bringing a message of unity and togetherness, saying that Democrats have each other’s backs. She decried the platitudes from Gov. Rick Scott towards the Hispanic community.

Annette Taddeo, Crist’s running mate, takes the stage at 9:16 p.m.:

“I’m incredibly honored to be on the ‘People’s Ticket’,” she said. “i know what it’s like to live on minimum wage. That’s why its important that people like me … have a seat at the table.”

Taddeo said the reason she was on the ticket is because “together we can make a difference.”

Update 922 p.m.:

Crist takes the stage while George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” plays.

First, he thanked Nan Rich for the campaign, adding that he looks froward to working with her, and her supporters, in the next 70 days. Her campaign was based on “issues we all care about.”

“It is not about Right versus left,” Crist said. “It”s about right versus wrong.”

Touched on all the red meat Democratic issues … teachers … healthcare costs … women’s healthcare.

As for voting rights, Crist said “Nothing is more important.”

Rick Scott is not on our side, he added. The audience responded with a round of boos.

“Don’t boo,” he shot back. “Vote.”

We need to invest in small businesses, adding he sees absolutely no reason that Florida should be 18th in solar production.

Update 9:40 p.m.:

Broward County returns (403 of 577 precincts reporting)  77 percent for Crist/23 percent for Rich.

Hillsborough County returns (338 of 347 precincts reporting)  77  percent for Crist/23 percent for Rich.

Pinellas County returns (299 precincts reporting) 80 percent for Crist/20 percent for Rich.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.