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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Cliff Stearns concedes defeat to Ted Yoho



stearns.jpgCongressman Cliff Stearns, a 12-term incumbent rocked last night in his re-election bid, called Ted Yoho about 12:05 p.m. and conceded defeat.

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," he said in a subsequent statement. "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. I have had an excellent and rewarding experience working in Congress for my fellow Floridians.

“I am disappointed that I won’t 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.”

“I stand proud of my 24-year record of conservative leadership and of defending our traditional values in Congress. It has been an honor, privilege, and the high calling of my life to serve the many outstanding citizens of Florida in our nation’s capital. I will leave the House of Representatives with a joyful heart and the satisfaction that I did all I could to advance the conservative cause. It is time for me to return to my family and explore new directions. While looking to the future, I also thank all the wonderful people who have supported me and my work over these many years.”

Stearns called friends early this morning to say he was going to concede.

"I'm sure there's a lot of disappointment and you could see it in his eyes and face last night," said former state Sen. Jim Horne of Jacksonville. "I've know Cliff for a long time. He's an incredible guy."

But Horne said the anti-incumbency mood was too powerful. "It was like an ocean wave sweeping in. 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."

Stearns, 71, had emerged in the past two years as a chief antagonist of the Obama administration, heading up the investigation in Solyndra and launching a contentious probe into Planned Parenthood. Horne said that probably did not hurt him in the solidly Republican district, again citing anti-incumbency as a driving factor in the race.

Yoho, a 57-year-old veterinarian in Gainesville, has said he'd serve only 8 years. He tapped into tea party angst, still simmering two years after the movement emerged, and won a string of straw polls that portended Tuesday's outcome.

"He’s the kind of guy I’d like to go fishing with," Ray Carlile, chairman of a tea party group in rural Suwanee County, said of Yoho. He said Stearns was in office too long and turned off voters with negative campaigning.

"He thought he was invincible at first but then tried to make up for lost time and got a little desperate," Carlile said.

Stearns was forced by redistricting to run in the newly redrawn District 3. He was not as familiar with some voters and seemed to have underestimated Yoho while focusing his fire on another rival, state Sen. Steve Olerich. Stearns as of late July still had $2 million in the bank.

[Last modified: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 12:55pm]


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