Twelve-term Rep. Cliff Stearns, who was trailing tea party upstart Ted Yoho by less than 900 votes in Tuesday’s Republican primary for Florida’s new 3rd Congressional District, conceded defeat Wednesday.
Mr. Stearns, who initially had said he wouldn’t concede until the race was certified, called Mr. Yoho at 12:15 pm to wish the winner well, the winner’s office said.
Mr. Stearns, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, is a member of the House Tea Party Caucus and was endorsed by two of the movements’ big stars: former GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Rep. Allen West, Florida Republican. He also had received support from several conservative groups.
But the congressman faced an anti-Washington and anti-incumbent backlash, while Mr. Yoho, a large animal veterinarian, was aided by strong tea party support and low voter turnout.
Mr. Yoho ended up with 34.4 percent of the vote to Mr. Stearns’ 33.1 percent. Mr. Yoho will face Democrat J.R. Gaillot and several write-in candidates in the general election, though the Republican will be a heavy favorite in the conservative rural northwest Florida district.