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2 Dems, 3 GOP seek Wexler’s congressional seat

WEST PALM BEACH – Polls closed Tuesday night after a rainy day with low voter’turnout in a special primary election as two Democrats and three Republicans vied for the congressional seat of former Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler.

‘The turnout has been low, but the people voting have been highly motivated,’highly educated. They know the issues, and they know the candidates,’ said former Broward County Commissioner Ben Graber, who is seeking the Democratic nomination. ‘We know we’re the underdog, but our goal was to give people a choice, and win or lose, we feel good about what we did.’

His challenger, State Sen. Ted Deutch, who has Wexler’s endorsement, spent the day at polls across the district.

‘There’s been a lot of’support and a lot of encouragement,’ Deutch said. ‘It’s been a really positive day, but obviously we’re not going to take anything for granted, and we’re going to keep shaking hands and keep encouraging people to vote right up until the polls close.’

Deutch, an attorney, also has the support of Democratic U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings and Ron Klein.

Three Republicans are vying for the seat that Wexler stepped down from in January. The’winners will meet in a special general election April 13 with that victor serving the last nine months of Wexler’s term, then running again for re-election to a full term in November.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the proposed health care overhaul and’federal spending have dominated the race.

Republican Ed Lynch, a’contractor, said he spent the day visiting up to 50 polling sites.

Bryan Rudnick, campaign spokesman for Republican Curt Price, a retired police officer who now owns a security business, said Price spent the day calling voters after also’finding extremely low turnout’at the polls.

Republican candidate and financial planner Joe Budd said the signs were hopeful.

Wexler, of Boca Raton, resigned to become president of the nonprofit Center for Middle East Peace & Economic Cooperation, leaving a Democratic seat he’comfortably held for seven terms.

The 48-year-old Wexler was a member of the House’Foreign Affairs Committee and backed President Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic primaries. He was hugely popular in’District 19, which includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, and has more than twice as many registered Democrats than Republicans – 234,000 to about 111,000.

Deutch and Graber, a’surgeon and former state House member, largely agree on many issues. They favor a health care overhaul, a public insurance option and federal stimulus spending to help small business and oppose offshore oil’drilling. Deutch, however, has supported Obama’s Afghanistan strategy while Graber favors a U.S. troop withdrawal.

The Republican candidates line up together in opposing tax increases, gun control and a public option for health’insurance.