TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Republicans ousted four Florida Democratic incumbents Tuesday and lost none of their own congressional seats in the state to help the GOP take control of the U.S. House.
Democrats lost their bids to take three Florida congressional seats being vacated by Republican incumbents but held their only open seat.
The four-seat gain gives the GOP a 19-6 advantage in Florida's House delegation. All except one of Florida's 25 districts had contested races.
Two freshman Democrats from central Florida who took seats from the GOP two years ago were early losers, Reps. Alan Grayson and Suzanne Kosmas. They were followed by seven-term "Blue Dog" Rep. Allen Boyd in north Florida and then Rep. Ron Klein, a two-term Democrat who had unseated longtime Republican Congressman Clay Shaw four years ago.
Former Florida House Speaker and ex-Senate Majority Leader Daniel Webster, a Winter Garden Republican, defeated Grayson, an Orlando lawyer in the 8th District.
Grayson's brash defense of liberal policies and harsh criticism of the opposition put him in the national limelight. It also made him a favorite of Democrats, who showered him with cash, and anathema to Republicans.
"Most of the time, negative campaigning works, and a lot of people cringed when I said I would run a positive campaign," Webster told The Orlando Sentinel. "We just felt like it was the right thing to do."
Grayson told his supporters he asked Webster to fulfill "that 3,000-year-old promise to feed the hungry, to heal the sick, to shelter the homeless, to reach out to the people who are less fortunate."
With all votes counted Webster had 56 percent while Grayson had 39 percent. Tea Party candidate Peg Dunmire, an Orlando financial adviser, was third with 4 percent.
State Rep. Sandy Adams, an Orlando Republican, defeated Kosmas of New Smyrna Beach in the 24th District. With all votes counted, Adams had 60 percent while Kosmas had 40 percent.
The GOP has a substantial edge in voter registration in the district that includes Florida's Space Coast, which is facing job losses due to cutbacks in the space program.
Republican Steve Southerland, a Panama City funeral director, defeated Boyd. With 95 percent of the expected vote counted, Southerland had 53 percent while Boyd had 42 percent. Two independents had the remaining vote.
Boyd, a Monticello farmer, has comfortably won re-election in the past but this year barely survived a primary challenge from Florida Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson in the sprawling 2nd District, which is mostly rural except for Tallahassee and Panama City.
Tough-talking retired Army officer Allen West, a Deerfield Beach Republican, defeated Klein in a rematch of the 22nd District race Klein won two years ago
West is the first black Republican elected to Congress from Florida since former slave Josiah T. Walls served two terms in the 1870s during post-Civil War Reconstruction. The House has not had a black GOP member since 2003 but several African-American Republicans were on Tuesday's ballot across the nation.
With 80 percent of the expected vote counted West had 55 percent while Klein had 45 percent.
Across the state, Republicans tried to cash in on tea party momentum by linking Democrats to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and stimulus program and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California liberal. Democrats in many cases depicted their GOP opponents as right-wing radicals out of touch with the mainstream.
Southerland said Boyd's health care vote was huge in his race.
"When upwards of 65 percent of your district is speaking with clarity and telling not to go in a direction you go in, I think there are consequences," Southerland said.
The Democrats' best chance of capturing a GOP seat rested with former Obama administration energy official Joe Garcia in a South Florida race, but he also lost to Republican state Rep. David Rivera. Both are from Miami.
With 94 percent of the expected vote counted, Rivera had 52 percent while Garcia had 42 percent in the 25th District. Two other candidates had the rest. The seat is being given up by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican who is moving to the 21st District, where he has been elected without opposition. He'll be taking the seat now held by his brother, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, also a Miami Republican, who is retiring.
Democrats also had pinned their hopes on Polk County Elections Supervisor Lori Edwards, but she lost a three-way race to former state Rep. Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican, in north central Florida.
In the 12th district, with all votes counted, Ross had 48 percent while Edwards had 41 percent and Florida Tea Party candidate Randy Wilkinson, a Polk County commissioner, had 11 percent. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Adam Putnam, a Bartow Republican, who ran instead for agriculture commissioner.
State Sen. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat, defeated Miami lawyer Roderick Vereen, who ran without party affiliation, in the 17th District.