A contentious — and expensive — general election in Senate District 8 went the way of Republican Keith Perry over Democrat Rod Smith.
With 226,438 votes counted throughout the three-county North Central Florida district, Perry was ahead 119,968 to 107,270 — a margin of 52 to 48 percent.
This was a priority race for the Democratic Party, yet Perry got stronger as the race went on.
All told, the candidates raised $1.5 million: Perry raised over $761,000, Smith garnered over $738,000. And each candidate had hundreds of thousands of dollars in in-kind contributions for what easily was the most competitive state Senate race between Ocala and the Georgia line.
Ad buys — both on radio and on television, including in the expensive Jacksonville market (where a Smith ad focused on a Republican endorsement) — were ubiquitous. With public polling in the race close, yet trending Perry’s way, both the GOP and the Democratic Party worked to turn this into a big-time race.
The race also had its share of personal drama, including a moment when Perry engaged in a scuffle with a Gainesville resident removing a Perry sign from a yard. That scuffle ultimately came to nothing.