- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. | Democratic state Sen. Ted Deutch on Tuesday handily won the first U.S. House race since Congress passed President Obama’s massive health care overhaul, frustrating Republican hopes to build momentum for the November midterms by capturing the seat.

With 59 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Deutch had 62 percent of the vote compared with 36 percent for Republican underdog Ed Lynch. Independent candidate Jim McCormick trailed far behind with just 3 percent. The Associated Press called the race just about two hours after the polls closed.

Mr. Deutch, an attorney, and Mr. Lynch, a contractor, both 44, were vying to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler.

“I have never before felt the way that I feel at this moment,” Mr. Deutch said to cheering supporters. “This is a victory for the community and it’s a victory about issues.”

Mr. Lynch, from West Palm Beach, sought to make the race a referendum on the health care bill in District 19, which includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties. About 40 percent of voters are senior citizens. But he had a tough task. Democrats outnumber Republicans by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

“We made a promise to our seniors, and this health care bill doesn’t fulfill that promise,” Mr. Lynch said Tuesday on a visit to the polls before the voting concluded. During the campaign, he predicted Mr. Obama’s health plan would gut Medicare and vowed to work for its repeal if elected to Congress.

Mr. Wexler, a self-proclaimed “fire-breathing liberal,” left office in January during his seventh congressional term to head a Middle East think tank. He was hugely popular in the district, which voted about 65 percent for Mr. Obama in 2008. Mr. Wexler, of Boca Raton, had endorsed Mr. Deutch.

He will now serve the remaining eight months of Mr. Wexler’s term, then will have to run in November for his own full term.

Mr. Lynch had hoped public disdain for the health care bill and low congressional approval ratings would help him upset Mr. Deutch, widely seen as the front-runner. He sought to do what Republican Scott Brown did in Massachusetts when he won the Senate seat held for nearly a half-century by Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

While Mr. Lynch lambasted the health care overhaul as a government takeover of the nation’s medical system, Mr. Deutch told voters it would provide immediate relief.

“The health care bill is going to help to preserve Medicare,” Mr. Deutch told voters of the government medical program for the nation’s seniors.

Mr. Lynch had also slammed Mr. Obama’s stimulus bill as doing little to help the economy and called the president’s timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq “moronic.”

Mr. Deutch said he would have voted for the health care overhaul and the stimulus bill and supports Obama’s Iraq strategy.

While Republicans conceded the race was a long shot, both parties were watching the race carefully as an early indicator of the electoral fallout from the long and often bitter wrangling over the health care reform measure on Capitol Hill.

If Mr. Lynch had won, “it would be a huge upset and would suggest that anger over the health care bill is certainly going to last potentially until the fall elections,” said Aubrey Jewett, a University of Central Florida political science professor.

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