Rep. Cliff Stearns, a longtime incumbent Republican from Ocala, was headed toward a stunning defeat Tuesday, undone by a veterinarian turned tea party faithful named Ted Yoho.
"I'm going to thank God. I'm going to do a Tebow right here," Yoho, 57, said by telephone from his campaign party in Gainesville late Tuesday.
The results in District 3 were still unclear but with most of the vote counted late Tuesday, Yoho was up by more than 800 votes. His campaign had not heard from Stearns and was bracing for a recount but felt confident he had won.
"Cliff Stearns embodied a career politician, the establishment," Yoho said. "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, largely unknown in Florida political circles until now, has lived in North Central Florida for more than three decades. He ran an aggressive campaign against Stearns, including a TV ad showing men in suits feeding from a pig trough.
Stearns had long been a backbencher in a career spanning more than two decades. But after the Republican wave of 2010, he ascended to chairman of the Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, a perch he used to prosecute high-profile and partisan inquires into Planned Parenthood and Solyndra.
Elsewhere in Florida, longtime Rep. John Mica turned back a challenge from tea party freshman Rep. Sandy Adams in their GOP primary.
The 10-term congressman, who wields considerable Capitol Hill clout as the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is expected to win in November in the Republican-leaning district. Adams fell short despite backing from 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
In other Florida races, attorney Todd Long defeated Osceola County Commissioner John Quinones in a central Florida Republican congressional primary. Long will now face former Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson for a congressional seat that represents part of metro Orlando.
And incumbent Republican Reps. Allen West, Tom Rooney and Ander Crenshaw also won their races Tuesday.