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Florida Election Results Make Spring Baseball Hot Topic in November

By Jim Dietrich -- August 17, 2012 8:24 AM EDT

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In a stunning defeat of the main proponent of spring training baseball in Fort Myers, Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah, during the Tuesday, August 14 primaries, baseball has taken center stage in the county months from the first pitch of March. Not only does this greatly reduce the chances the Washington Nationals will move to City of Palms Park, but it also spells trouble for the Minnesota Twins' spring trips to Hammond Stadium.

According to The News-Press of Fort Myers, the six-term commissioner finished third in the Republican primary, meaning he is no longer eligible for the general election in November. The two GOP frontrunners are staunch opponents of Judah's plan of having the county foot nearly the entire bill for both parks' necessary rehabs, with both saying both the Nationals and Twins need to contribute if they want renovations.

All of this is thanks in-part to the Boston Red Sox and their swanky new spring home, JetBlue Park. Since Lee County has committed over $140 million spread over the next 30 years to build JetBlue Park, there is not enough money left over to do what both the Nationals and Twins want: the same deal the Red Sox got of a 100% government-funded stadium. However, to sell the county on JetBlue and its team-friendly deal, Judah sold the project as-is because "the Red Sox are different than the Twins. The Red Sox have greater needs," and an independent running in November for the seat Judah will be vacating, Charlie Whitehead, said he believes the Twins comprehend this distinction between them and the Red Sox, so they should pay their share of renovations to Hammond.

So, though the Twins are obligated to play in Hammond Stadium until at least 2020, the terms of their contract with Lee County state that if renovations aren't finished by February 1, 2015, the contract is voided. What happens at that date remains a mystery. However, with this situation starting to boil over, it seems highly likely the Nationals' move will be tabled for another day; at this point, saving the Twins should become the number one priority of Lee County.

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