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Republicans Get Their Man in Florida

Lawyer Tom Rooney narrowly won the Republican primary in Florida’s 16th district Tuesday, setting him up for what is likely to be a close and hard-fought match-up with freshman Rep. Tim Mahoney (D), one of the GOP’s top targets for November.

Rooney edged state Rep. Gayle Harrell, according to the latest election results, 37 percent to 35 percent. Former Palm Beach Gardens Councilman Hal Valeche took 28 percent.

Rooney, who is part of the family that owns the Pittsburgh Steelers, was the choice of most national GOP leaders to take on Mahoney. The Palm Beach-area 16th district leans Republican in presidential elections, but Mahoney was able to win in 2006 in part because of a scandal surrounding the outgoing incumbent, former Rep. Mark Foley (R).

“Tom Rooney is geared up and ready,” said a memo prepared Wednesday morning by the National Republican Congressional Committee. Meanwhile, in Florida’s 8th district, Rep. Ric Keller (R) held off a surprisingly strong challenge from lawyer Todd Long (R), who took 47 percent of the GOP primary vote. In November Keller will face Alan Grayson (D), a wealthy businessman who won his primary by almost 20 points.