Veteran congressman Cliff Stearns has conceded to primary to tea party challenger, Ted Yoho, in the most stunning upset of Tuesday's primaries.
The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee lost to veterinarian Yoho, who held on most of the night and into the morning with an 829-vote lead after all precincts were counted.
"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," Stearns said in a statement Wednesday. "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."
Stearns said he was "disappointed" that he will not be able "to continue my investigations of the Obama administration such as the risky loan guarantee to Solyndra and holding Planned Parenthood accountable to the taxpayers."
"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,” he added.
One of Stearns' closest allies was less conciliatory. Former state Sen. Jim Horne told the Tampa Bay Times, "The hyper-partisan politics of Washington have poisoned voters' view of all politicians. People were willing to throw out the good to make sure they are throwing out the bad."
Yoho, who was fighting his first election, was ecstatic with his victory. “I’m going to thank God. I’m going to do a Tebow right here,” he told the Times from his election headquarters at the Pickled Pelican restaurant in Gainesville.
Yoho’s lead stood at 1.3 percent, well over the 0.5 percent that triggers an automatic recount in Florida.
“Cliff Stearns embodied a career politician, the establishment," Yoho told the Times. "He was more concerned about getting re-elected than doing what's right. He’s not a bad guy. We just need different leadership."
Yoho described himself as “100 percent behind the tenets of the tea party."
Stearns refused to concede immediately after the votes were counted, saying the result appeared so close he wanted to wait until all the votes have been certified. Yoho’s lead over him stood at 34.4 percent to Stearns’ 33.1 percent. There were two other Republicans in the field.
"Since this is a close primary vote and we still need to make sure all voices are heard, we are awaiting the certified results,” Stearns's campaign said late Tuesday, reported the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.
Stearns, 71, has represented the area in the House since winning the election in 1988. He has never received less than 59 percent of the vote in an election. The 3rd District, which has been altered by redistricting, stretches from the Jacksonville suburbs to south of Ocala, and is considered safe for the Republicans in November.
Stearns has led the fight in Congress over the Solyndra green energy debacle, saying President Barack Obama’s administration should have done more to assure the company was financially solvent before putting the taxpayer on the hook for $535 million.
Yoho, a 57-year-old father of three, was vastly outspent by his opponent. But Politico said Stearns was “caught napping,” with $2 million in his warchest in late July as he believed his primary opposition was not a serious threat. Yoho raised a total of $299,000 for his campaign, which had some unorthodox twists, including a YouTube video where he was interviewed by a George W. Bush impersonator and another where suit-clad men rolled in a pigsty to represent career politicians "feeding" at a trough.
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