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Former Florida Gov. Crist wins Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, and his wife Ann, depart after a visit to a phone bank field office thanking volunteers for their work and support, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Orlando, Fla. Scott is seeking re-election for a second term as Florida's governor. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, and his wife Ann, depart after a visit to a phone bank field office thanking volunteers for their work and support, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Orlando, Fla. Scott is seeking re-election for a second term as Florida's governor. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist won the Democratic primary to challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, marking another step in an unlikely political comeback four years after leaving the Republican Party.

Crist defeated Nan Rich, a former Senate Democratic leader who has been campaigning for governor longer than Crist has been a Democrat. He is the first person in Florida to win the nomination for governor as a Republican and a Democrat. With 39 per cent of the precincts counted, Crist had 75 per cent to 25 per cent for Rich.

Crist, 58, was once considered a potential running mate for 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. He also had the backing of Republican leaders in a 2010 bid for the U.S. Senate — until Marco Rubio used an image of Crist hugging President Barack Obama to chase Crist from the primary. Crist lost an independent bid for the seat Rubio now holds.

After campaigning for Obama in 2012, Crist completed his political transition later that year by posting a photo of his voter registration card on Twitter during an event at the White House.

Crist now faces Scott and Libertarian Adrian Wyllie in a race that's already been highly negative. Scott anticipated a Crist victory and has already spent millions of dollars in ads attacking him for political flip-flops and for supporting President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

Crist was also focused on Scott leading up to the primary, reminding voters that Scott is a former hospital chain CEO who ran a company that paid a $1.7 billion settlement for Medicaid fraud.

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