In a possible bad omen for Democrats in the midterm elections, Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby in a special election for a vacant House seat in Florida Tuesday.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Jolly beat Sink 48.5 percent to 46.6 percent, according to the Associated Press, to win the 13th District seat in the St. Petersburg area and succeed his former boss, C.W. Bill Young, who held it for 43 years until he died in October.
Media called the result less than an hour after the polls closed at 7 p.m. EDT.
Pre-election polls had showed a slight lead for Sink. The race could be a harbinger of the November 2014 midterm elections. In 2012, the district went for President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney 50.1 percent to 48.6 percent. Obama carried it in 2008 as well. But the district had also been held by the Republican Young for decades.
Sink, 65, Jolly, 41, and Overby, 27, often were overshadowed by outside political groups and the millions in advertisements they bought in what was the most expensive House race in history.
Republicans hammered Sink on the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, since she supports changing the law instead of a full repeal - which Jolly and many Republicans say they prefer. Democrats attacked Jolly for his work as a lobbyist and for his support from right-wing groups, and accused him of wanting to privatize Social Security in a district with a large retired population.
Money spent by outside groups overshadowed what the campaigns themselves spent by nearly 2-1, the Tribune said. Sink and Jolly pulled in about $2.5 million and $1 million, respectively, while outside money ballooned to nearly $9 million.
Sink was “ultimately brought down because of her unwavering support for Obamacare, and that should be a loud warning for other Democrats running coast to coast,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon said in a statement reported by Politico.
His Democratic counterpart, Rep. Steve Israel of New York, said: “Alex put this district in play despite Republicans spending $5 million against her, and she came closer to victory in a historically Republican district than any Democrat has in decades. Democrats will fight for FL-13 in the midterm, when the electorate is far less heavily tilted toward Republicans.”