ORLANDO, Fla. — Incumbent Rep. Darren Soto won the Democratic primary in one of the most watched congressional races this election season.
- Soto beats Grayson in District 9 Democratic primary
- He will run against Wayne Liebnitzky in November
- DECISION 2018: Decision 2018 Voting Guide | LIVE election results | Latest News
Soto and former Congressman Alan Grayson fought on the Democratic ticket for the District 9 congressional seat, which covers Osceola County and parts of Orange and Polk counties.
In his acceptance speech Soto talked about how he felt he ran his campaign with dignity and respect. He also said he couldn’t have done this without all of the people who backed him.
"We're humbled by this tremendous victory. I don't take anything for granted. I never have. Every election you run like your behind. You run on positive issues. And a lot of people thought I should maybe have gone negative, that would have been a mistake. Because folks want to be inspired again after the divisive politics you're seeing in Washington and here in Florida," Soto said in his victory speech Tuesday night.
The Spectrum News Decision 2018 Congressional poll found Hispanic voters account for about 39 percent of District 9’s population and made up about 29 percent of likely voters.
An exclusive Spectrum News Decision 2018 poll from early August found Hispanic voters were more likely to support incumbent Soto over Grayson.
Soto is wrapping up his first term in Congress after years in Florida's House and Senate.
He's a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and is known for highlighting issues that impact the Hispanic community, including the influx of Hurricane Maria evacuees in Florida.
During his victory speech Tuesday night, he also vouched to represent the Hispanic community by standing up for Dreamers.
Alvaro Cifuentes says he met Soto over a decade ago and encouraged him to run for office and has been following his career ever since.
“He is very policy oriented. I think he swings with a lot of conservative folks -- so not your typical bread and butter of the democratic party,” he explained.
Others like Diane Joril said they are hopeful of what Soto will bring to the plate.
“I hope he gives our education more money cause schools are really in need of this,” Joril said. “I am on Medicare, and I hope he saves our Medicare and hope he saves our social security.”
The campaign trail
Along the campaign trail, Soto received endorsements from former Vice President Joe Biden and every Democratic member of Florida Congress.
Soto's Democratic opponent Alan Grayson was known as one of the most candid members of Congress when he served from 2009 to 2011 and 2013 to 2015.
Although he would eventually make a run for U.S. Senate in 2016, he lost in the Democratic primary.
The two Democratic candidates debated on Spectrum News in August, with affordable housing and Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference among hot topics discussed.
Soto will run against the unopposed Republican Wayne Liebnitzky of St. Cloud on Election Day. He said he has a lot of work left to do from now till November.
“For those who voted for me, thank you. For those who did not, we welcome you. For independents, we will be putting up a platform you can buy into and believe in,” Soto added. “And for modern Republicans who are disenchanted with Trump, we can help bring balance into Washington.”
District 9 is considered a Democratic-leaning seat. Democrats make up almost 40 percent of voters compared with about 27 percent for Republicans.
Soto ended his speech Tuesday night by saying in Spanish, “nosotros somos unidos,” meaning “we are united,” and “si se puede,” meaning “yes we can.”
Reporter Stephanie Bechara contributed to this story.