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GOP women insist Senate hopefuls stay positive

Florida Senate District 4 candidates appear together at forum

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The two candidates in the most visible and loudest race on Tuesday's primary ballot faced off Thursday before a group that demanded decorum:  The Republican Women's Club of Duval Federated.

Aaron Bean and Mike Weinstein defended their positions as conservative Republicans seeking the newly created Florida Senate District 4 seat that includes part of Duval County and all of Nassau County.

While the rules of the forum only allowed the two only to make statements -- no attacks -- Weinstein took the opportunity to address the raging TV commercial battle, saying it had been hijacked by privately funded groups intent on attacking each other.

These Republican women said they wanted to hear from the candidates in person to figure out who they support.

"Meeting together like this, the camaraderie is wonderful, and you learn things," said Barbara Bane. "You know, we can sit at home, read the paper and watch the news, but if we're not out and about, getting involved, we won't learn anything."

Many of those crowded into the hall at the Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Riverfront hotel were candidates for other offices hoping to make connections that will count. That's what club members wanted, too.

"I think this will make an impact on voters, and we stress the positive in our club," club member Sharon Light said.

"It's very stirring in that some people haven't made up their mind yet," Bane said. "This will make the difference today. Then, once they find out who they're for, they'll throw in their support."

Apparently the forum did help women in this group did make up their mind. At the end of the luncheon, the club held a straw poll that put Bean solidly in front by a margin of 41-8.

The winner of the Republican contest will face face Democrat Nancy Soderberg and two write-in candidates in November's general election.