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Florida's Darren Soto fends off Dem challenge from Alan Grayson

Florida's Darren Soto fends off Dem challenge from Alan Grayson
© Greg Nash

Rep. Darren SotoDarren Michael SotoElectoral battle for Hispanics intensifies in Florida Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash Election Countdown: What to watch in final primaries | Dems launch M ad buy for Senate races | Senate seats most likely to flip | Trump slump worries GOP | Koch network's new super PAC MORE (D-Fla.) is projected to win the Democratic primary in Florida’s 9th District, fending off a bid from former Rep. Alan GraysonAlan Mark GraysonFlorida's Darren Soto fends off Dem challenge from Alan Grayson Live results: Arizona and Florida hold primaries The Hill's Morning Report: Frustration mounts as Republicans blow up tax message MORE (D-Fla.) to reclaim his old seat.

Soto is poised to return to Congress for a second term in the blue Orlando-area district after defeating Grayson 66 to 34 percent on Tuesday. The Associated Press called the race for Soto with 82 percent of precincts reporting.

Soto will now face Republican Wayne Liebnitzky, who unsuccessfully ran against Soto last cycle. But he is expected to cruise to a second term in November in a district that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Bolton tells Russians 2016 meddling had little effect | Facebook eyes major cyber firm | Saudi site gets hacked | Softbank in spotlight over Saudi money | YouTube fights EU 'meme ban' proposal Dems lower expectations for 'blue wave' Election Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout MORE won by double digits in 2016.

The first person of Puerto Rican descent to represent Florida in Congress, Soto had a groundswell of support ahead of Tuesday's primary from Democrats including former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenTrump: 'You know what I am? I'm a nationalist' Biden jokes about Obama memes: 'Barack did the first friendship bracelet, not me' 'Broad City' stars urge Clinton not to run again MORE, House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi: 'Follow the money' to understand Trump-Saudi relations Pelosi says Dems would 'handily' win House if election were held today Ben Shapiro condemns Republicans confronting Nancy Pelosi: ‘Stupid, nasty, and counterproductive’ MORE (D-Calif.), Rep. John LewisJohn LewisJohn Lewis: I've had my skull fractured for the right to vote, 'vote like you’ve never voted before' The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Trump, Pence fan out to protect the Rust Belt Atlanta mayor signs bill to change Confederate street names MORE (D-Ga.) and former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.). He also won endorsements from national groups like Planned Parenthood.

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Grayson, 60, an outspoken Democratic lawmaker who vacated the House seat in 2016 to run for Senate, frustrated many in his party by challenging Soto this year. He hammered Soto during the primary over his congressional performance and Soto's record while serving in the state legislature from 2007 to 2016.

Soto and Grayson currently align on many of the same progressive ideals, including "Medicare for all" and a $15 minimum wage. But Grayson knocked Soto for his past votes in the legislature on gun rights and limiting reproductive rights.

Soto, 40, has expressed regret for those votes. And the congressman said his views on guns shifted after the deadly 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Soto outraised and outspent Grayson during the primary, and in the lead-up to Tuesday's vote had touted the support of several progressive groups that previously backed Grayson.