Four-term Rep. Kendrick Meek defeated real estate billionaire Jeff Greene in Florida's Democratic Senate primary, the Associated Press reported. Meek will go on to a general election fight with Republican Marco Rubio and Republican-turned-Independent Charlie Crist.
Meek and Greene candidates have been relentless in criticizing each other, and the vitriol is unlikely to end with Tuesday's primary.
Meek has called Greene a "bad man" who earned his wealth on the backs of the working class; Greene made his money forecasting that the mortgage market would collapse. Greene called the congressman corrupt and criticized his mother, former Rep. Carrie Meek, saying she got money and a Cadillac Escalade from a developer seeking federal money for a project.
The nomination was supposed to be a lock for Meek, a one-time Florida Highway Patrol trooper and son of the former congresswoman in the north Miami congressional district. But on the last day possible, Greene entered the race and immediately began spending millions on television ads.
Meek has been substantially outspent in the race. He estimates Greene has written checks totaling $26 million, a number the Greene campaign won't confirm.
"I'm encouraged by the numbers that we see right now, that we're even being considered after $26 million. Usually it goes to the guy that runs the most television commercials, putting the mail in the most mailboxes. In this case people are looking at the grass-roots campaign we've run in the last year-and-a-half," Meek said.
Greene's television ads have far outnumbered Meek's and the real estate mogul has blanketed the state with direct mail pieces and robocalls, including one recorded by television personality Star Jones.
But Meek has outworked Greene on getting around the state.
Meek seemed to be thriving on recent momentum. He had a big smile on his face most of the day, including a 50-minute interview with Bubba the Love Sponge, a popular Tampa-based radio talk show host with a statewide audience. Bubba, who legally changed his name to Bubba the Love Sponge back in the 80s, told his audience he has already voted for Meek and strongly encouraged listeners to do the same.
Greene stuck to the theme he's had since entering the race in April on the last possible day to qualify for the ballot: he's an outsider whose created jobs and Meek is a career politician.
"It's been a great day and it's been a marvelous four months. I have to say four months of traveling around Florida, what I'm seeing is the unemployment keeps getting worse. I'm the only jobs creator who's running for United States Senate in Florida. Hopefully, the people of Florida will give me a chance to represent them," Greene said.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday showed 39 percent of likely primary voters supported Meek, compared to 29 percent who favored Greene. But 28 percent said they still hadn't made up their minds. The poll, taken Saturday and Sunday, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Greene shrugged off recent polls that show him trailing.
"The polls, they're up and they're down every day. I think last week we were up 8, then the next day we were down 14," Greene said. "Look, this campaign has been embraced by the people of Florida since the day I got into this campaign because I offer a clear choice: more of the same politicians who have failed us or me."
The newly-minted Democratic nominee following Florida's primary will face GOP contender Marco Rubio and Republican-turened-independent candidate Gov. Charlie Crist in the November election.