BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Democratic state Sen. Ted Deutch has handily won the first U.S. House race since Congress passed President Barack Obama's massive health care overhaul.
With 43 percent of precincts reporting, Deutch had 62 percent of the vote compared to 36 percent for Republican Ed Lynch late Tuesday.
The Associated Press called the race about two hours after polls closed.
The 44-year-old Deutch had faced underdog Lynch in the special election to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler.
Lynch sought to make the race a referendum on the health care bill in District 19, where about 40 percent of voters are senior citizens. But he had a difficult task — Democrats outnumber Republicans in the South Florida district by more than two-to-one.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Elections officials reported no problems and high voter turnout Tuesday in the first U.S. House race since Congress passed President Barack Obama's massive health care overhaul.
Republican Ed Lynch hopes public disdain for the bill and low congressional approval ratings will help him upset his Democratic opponent in the special election to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler.
Lynch, a 44-year-old contractor, is up against Democratic state Sen. Ted Deutch and no-party candidate Jim McCormick. The winner will serve the remaining months of Wexler's term, then will have to run in November for his own full term.
Lynch is trying to make the South Florida contest a referendum on health care in a heavily Democratic district where about 40 percent of voters are senior citizens. It's a strategy that helped Republican Scott Brown win the Massachusetts Senate seat held for nearly half a century by Democrat Edward M. Kennedy.
"We made a promise to our seniors and this health care bill doesn't fulfill that promise," Lynch said Tuesday while visiting the polls. He thinks the bill will gut Medicare and wants it repealed.
But beating a Democrat in a district that sent Wexler, a self-proclaimed "fire-breathing liberal," to Congress seven times will be a difficult task.
"If he did it, 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.
Deutch, also 44, is widely seen as the front-runner after Wexler, of Boca Raton, resigned in January to lead a Middle East think tank. He was hugely popular in District 19, which includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties and has more than twice as many registered Democrats than Republican — 234,000 to about 111,000.
The district voted about 65 percent for Obama in 2008.
Deutch supports the health care bill and says it will help seniors immediately and in the future.
"The health care bill is going to help to preserve Medicare," he said Tuesday.
Lena Paglia, of Deerfield Beach, thinks Obama just needs a little more time.
"There's only so much he can do alone," Paglia said Tuesday. She declined to give her party affiliation.
"Let's face it," she added, "we have to work slowly and hope that there's going to be some change."
Republican Barbara Samuells, of West Palm Beach, said she fears the health care bill will only complicate matters.
"Think of the worst bureaucracy you've ever dealt with and that's what the health care bureaucracy will be," she said.
Lynch is also slamming Obama's stimulus bill and strategy for the war in Iraq.
But Deutch, who supports both, said he isn't worried about the political climate in Washington.
"People are going to the polls to elect their representative in Congress and they want someone who is going to stand up for them, who is going to be effective and deliver results," he said. "That's what this campaign was about when I got into it, and I don't think anything has changed."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.