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2020

Kat Cammack wins Republican nomination in CD 3

Cammack is now the odds-on favorite to succeed U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho.

Kat Cammack won the Republican primary for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District on Tuesday night with about 25% of the vote.

There are still votes to count, but Cammack leads in all six counties that make up CD 3. In Bradford, Clay, Marion, Putnam and Union counties, where all votes have been counted, she is up 2,358 votes over Judson Sapp, her closest competitor.

She was also up by 10 points in Alachua, where only mail ballots remain.

“I am so honored to have earned the trust and support of the voters of FL-03 to represent the Republican Party in the General Election,” Cammack said in a news release. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you to our team of supporters and volunteers who gave it all for months to ensure we secured this victory. I look forward to continuing to work hard to ensure us Republicans hold this seat in November and to bring a fresh conservative voice Washington next year.”

With the Republican nomination secured, Cammack is the odds-on favorite to succeed U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho in the North Central Florida seat.

The CD 3 Republican primary was the most crowded in the state with 10 candidates making the ballot, however only a few managed to gain traction in the sprawling district.

Cammack, however, managed to separate herself from the pack over the summer months, often hosting chats with voters over Facebook while remaining competitive on the fundraising front despite going up against some deep-pocketed self-funders.

It likely helped that she had the strongest connection to Yoho, whom she worked for as a campaign manager and later as his deputy chief of staff.

Though some of her competitors raised questions about the circumstances of her departure from Yoho’s office, the Congressman himself chose to let the primary play out rather than weigh in against his one-time staffer.

But exaggerations about connections to Yoho World were rote in this contest. Any made by Cammack — if that’s indeed the case — were pedestrian considering the lengths other candidates went to in order to insinuate support from the incumbent. Gavin Rollins, for example, insinuated an endorsement by having the Congressman’s son, Tyler Yoho, co-chair one of his campaign fundraisers.

Cammack’s victory brings to a close a primary that most thought wouldn’t happen in the first place.

When Yoho was running for his first term against Cliff Stearns, he promised he would serve eight years and bow out of office to avoid becoming a “career politician” — a not-so-subtle dig at Stearns, who had represented the district for nearly a quarter century.

But promises are made on the campaign trail oftentimes aren’t kept. Nine months ago, it appeared that was the case.

Yoho furthered speculation he would run for a fifth term when he filed a statement of candidacy for the 2020 election and continued raising money. Yet, when confronted, he told a Florida Politics reporter to “bank” on him leaving office.

Eventually, he ended the suspense and announced he would keep his promise to retire. When he did, it appeared Sapp was in position to win the nomination two years after he unsuccessfully primaried the incumbent.

He led in fundraising and had managed to garner endorsements from some well-known Republicans, including U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and John Rutherford.

However, the field ballooned when the seat became open and Sapp’s fundraising operation stalled, leading him to self-finance from there on out.

He wasn’t the only big spender, either. Physician James St. George reached deep into his personal wealth, dumping more than $600,000 into his campaign — about double what he managed to raise from donors.

St. George was the first candidate to hit the airwaves, though Cammack soon followed with an ad that was somewhat reminiscent of Yoho’s 2012 “pigs at the trough” ad — a political ad that’s still talked about eight years later outside of the district as much as in it.

With the contest over, it appears the style fit Cammack.

CD 3 covers Alachua, Bradford, Clay, Putnam and Union counties as well as part of Marion. It has a strong Republican advantage — Yoho won reelection by 15 percentage points in 2018 — so, barring unforeseen circumstances, Cammack is expected to defeat the eventual Democratic nominee in November.

The Democratic nominating contest is much closer, with just 772 votes separating Adam Christensen from Tom Wells as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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