Tuesday Primaries Prove Outsiders Gaining Edge in 2012

Congressional primary races offer a few surprises for incumbents.


In Florida's Third Congressional District, locals took to the primary polls and voted out 12-term Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns.

Stearns has yet to concede, but with 100 percent of precincts in, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee lags by more than 820 votes behind relatively unknown veterinarian Ted Yoho.

In a statement from the campaign Tuesday night, Stearns said "since this is a close primary vote and we still need to make sure all voices are heard, we are awaiting the certified results."

[Read: Election 2010 Redistricting Gains Will Give GOP Lasting Majority.]

Yoho, who has never held elective office, but has lived in Florida for more than 30 years, raised just $129,000 compared to Stearns's more than $2.1 million war chest.

Yoho, a member of the National Rifle Association and proud Tea Party supporter, successfully leveraged his outsider status to appeal to voters fed up with the gridlock in Washington. In his first television ad, Stearns depicted grown, suit-clad men rolling around and eating out of a pig's feeding trough in an effort to demonize long-time incumbents in Congress. In another ad, Yoho used a George W. Bush impersonator to lobby on his behalf.

Stearns, who ran in a newly drawn district, had built a reputation in Congress as a conservative heavyweight. During his tenure, he launched controversial investigations into both Planned Parenthood and failed energy company Solyndra. He attracted negative headlines in 2011 when he suggested Sept. 11 firefighters receiving government help for injuries incurred during their service be cleared from the national terrorism watch list. [Redistricting leads to ugly GOP vs. GOP races.]

In Connecticut's hotly contested senate race, another former incumbent, Rep. Christopher Shays, who cited his Washington-heavy resume as a major plus during his primary, lost to former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon. McMahon, who lost narrowly to Sen. Richard Blumenthal in 2010, is making her second attempt at a Connecticut senate seat. If she is successful, she will be the first Republican to hold the seat in more than 30 years. McMahon will face off against three-term Democrat Rep. Chris Murphy in November in the hopes of winning retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman's seat.

Just minutes after the race was called, Executive Director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Guy Cecil wasted no time in attacking McMahon. The DSCC said "Linda McMahon is a greedy CEO who made millions marketing sex and violence to little kids, all at the expense of the health and safety of her own employees," the statement said.

In another Florida District, Republican Rep. John Mica, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman managed to hang on in the primary. Able to outspend his opponent 3-to-1, the 10-term congressman trounced freshman Tea Party candidate Rep. Sandy Adams in the district. Adams had collected endorsements from the likes of former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but her celebrity endorsements and establishment attacks on Mica failed to secure a victory.