Lakeland lawyer Kristen Carlson cruised to a solid victory over top rival Andrew Learned to secure the Democratic nomination for CD 15 in Tuesday’s primary.
Carlson took 53 percent of the vote, and Learned took 32 percent. Ray Pena was the third Democrat in the race, and he had 15 percent of the vote.
CD 15 covers parts of eastern Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties and is considered an uphill battle for Democrats, although the Cook Report moved it in July from “safe Republican” to “leans Republican.”
Democrats have targeted the district as winnable in their efforts to take control of the House. Carlson will face state Rep. Ross Spano in the general election on Nov. 6.
The campaign turned testy in the final days when Carlson, a former prosecutor, lobbed a charge of negative campaigning against Learned, a U.S. Army veteran and small business owner from Valrico.
He charged Carlson has received so-called “dark money” in the campaign and criticized her for giving campaign donations in the past to Republican candidates.
Learned has been campaigning for about a year, while Carlson joined the fray on May 2.
Learned received endorsements from the U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, Hillsborough Democratic Black Caucus, Democratic Progressive Caucus of Tampa Bay, and the Hillsborough LGBTA Democratic Caucus.
Carlson was endorsed by EMILY’S List, a national progressive organization designed to help more women win seats in Congress and state legislatures