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Sens. Bullard, Wilson automatically reelected

Dozens of incumbent state lawmakers, including many from South Florida, earned new terms in office Friday after no one stepped forward to challenge them.

Sen. Larcenia Bullard and Sen. Frederica Wilson, two Democrats from Miami-Dade County, were among those who got another four years in office when the official qualifying period for the 2008 elections ended at noon.

Some legislators, however, did get last-minute opponents, including Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican and top ally to outgoing House Speaker Marco Rubio.Juan Espinosa, a 25-year-old actor with no previous political experience, jumped into the race against Rivera on Friday morning.

Espinosa said he decided to challenge Rivera over ''broken promises'' that he and other lawmakers would take care of high property taxes and high insurance rates.

Rep. Ron Saunders, a Key West Democrat whose district includes a portion of Miami-Dade County, also drew a Republican opponent in the final hours as well. Saunders said he was not surprised since some GOP leaders had been urging him to run against Bullard for the state Senate. Sauders narrowly lost to Bullard in 2004 in the Democratic primary following a bitter race in which third-party groups targeted both candidates with negative ads.

Several top lawmakers, including incoming House Speaker Ray Sansom, a Destin Republican, and incoming House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands, a Weston Democrat, were reelected on Friday without opposition.

But Sen. Jeff Atwater, a Palm Beach County Republican in line to become the next Senate president, is being challenged by former state Sen. Skip Campbell in what will be one of the most expensive and highly-watched legislative contests. Atwater has already raised $1.62 million for his reelection effort, but Campbell is convinced that Democrats have a chance to win the seat, which includes portions of both Palm Beach and Broward counties.

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