Total Pageviews

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Veterinarian Surprises Florida\'s Stearns in Republican Primary


A huge cash advantage and a shift to the ideological right were not enough to secure a primary victory for Representative Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, who lost his bid for a 13th term to a Tea Party-backed veterinarian who has never held public office.

Mr. Stearns conceded the race on Wednesday to his rival, Ted Yoho, a self-described “Christian and conservative Republican,” after it became clear that uncounted ballots would not be enough to turn the race in his favor.

“Based upon the results from last night, it would appear that there are not enough provisional ballots to make up the difference for me to win this primary election,” Mr. Stearns said in a statement, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “Therefore, I am conceding the election to Ted Yoho, and I talked with him, wishing him the best in his effort to represent the wonderful people of north central Florida.”

Complete but unofficial results from Tuesday's Republican primary in the Third Congressional District showed Mr. Stearns lagging behind Mr. Yoho 34.4 percent to 33.1 percent with 829 votes between them.

Mr. Yoho will face J.R. Gaillot, a political consultant who is running as a Democrat, in the general election.

Mr. Yoho, 57, had already claimed victory in the race on Tuesday night.

“I'm going to thank God,” Mr. Yoho told the Tampa Bay Times. “I'm going to do a Tebow right here,” he said, referring to the New York Jets quarterback who kneels on one knee and says a short prayer after scoring a touchdown.

Mr. Yoho's victory is a stunning upset for Mr. Stearns, who enjoyed a huge cash advantage and had not been considered endangered, even after redistricting forced him to run in a newly drawn Gainesville-area district that was more conservative.

Campaign finance reports show Mr. Stearns's campaign coffers stuffed with more than $2 million as of July 25, compared with the less than $130, 000 in Mr. Yoho's account at the same time. He also benefited from endorsements from Tea Party heartthrobs like Representatives Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and Allen West of Florida.

But he suffered some missteps in his campaign. In March, he was recorded at a town-hall-style meeting expressing doubts about the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate. He had focused much of his energy on another rival, State Senator Steve Olerich, instead of Mr. Yoho.

Mr. Stearns, 71, is the chairman of the investigations subpanel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In that capacity, he emerged as a top antagonist to Democrats and liberal groups as he steered investigations into the Obama administration's dealings with the failed solar energy company Solyndra and an inquiry into whether Planned Parenthood had used federal funds to provide abortions.

“I am disappointed that I won't be able to contin ue my investigations of the Obama administration such as the risky loan guarantee to Solyndra and holding Planned Parenthood accountable to the taxpayers,” he said in his concession statement. “There is so much left to do in conducting oversight over the White House and the president's growing expansion of government into our lives.”

Mr. Yoho fed off conservative activists' anti-incumbent sentiment, labeling his opponent a career politician. His first campaign ad featured actors dressed as politicians eating from a pig trough.

“Career politicians got us in this mess, but all they do is throw mud at each other,” Mr. Yoho said in the ad. He promised to leave office after four terms.