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Tea party favorite wins upset in Florida

WASHINGTON -- While two veteran Republicans, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and Rep. John Mica of Florida, survived conservative challenges in Tuesday's congressional primaries, a veterinarian and political novice named Ted Yoho stole much of the spotlight.

Florida tea party challenger Yoho won a major upset against 12-term GOP Rep. Cliff Stearns by slightly more than 800 votes, about 1 percentage point.

Four states held primaries, including Connecticut, where, within hours of claiming victories in their primary elections, former wrestling executive Linda McMahon and Rep. Chris Murphy began attacking one another in a preview of their November matchup.

In Florida, Stearns, who conceded the race yesterday, had become a national Republican favorite after spearheading criticism of the Obama administration's energy program and its funding of Planned Parenthood.

But Yoho criticized Stearns, saying he'd been in office too long, and pledged that he would leave the House after eight years. He ran a TV ad with actors dressed as politicians in suits eating from a trough alongside pigs and threw mud at each other.

In Wisconsin, Thompson turned back a trio of challengers in the Republican Senate primary, setting up a general election race against Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin for retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl's seat, which the GOP hasn't held since 1957.

Thompson's win, as an establishment Republican derided by rivals as not conservative enough, was a disappointment for tea party forces and other conservative activists hoping to add to big wins earlier this year in the Indiana and Texas GOP Senate primaries. Tea party candidates scored major gains in the 2010 congressional races, but they've had mixed success since then.

The win marked the first step in a political comeback for Thompson, 70, a former cabinet secretary who hasn't been on the ballot since 1998.

McMahon, a Republican, and Murphy, a Democrat, easily defeated party challengers Tuesday and will compete for the seat held by Sen. Joe Lieberman, a retiring independent.

"Congressman Murphy is burying the American dream," McMahon, said in Stamford. "We will save the American dream."

Murphy, who represents the 5th Congressional District, made clear he is ready for a bruising fight. He said McMahon "has spent every ounce of her being fighting for profits at the expense of her workers and at the expense of Connecticut jobs."

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