Republican David Jolly speaks during a candidate forum with Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby, all candidates for Florida's congressional District 13, in Clearwater, Florida, February 25, 2014. Sink and Jolly are in a race for a special election to be held on March 11, 2014 to elect a member of the United States House of Representatives to replace the seat of the late Republican Congressman Bill Young. REUTERS/Brian Blanco (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)BRIAN BLANCO / Reuters
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Republican David Jolly was declared the winner Tuesday of a closely watched Florida Congressional race both parties viewed as testing grounds to hone strategies for the 2014 midterm elections.
Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in a tight race to fill the Tampa Bay-area seat of the late GOP Rep. Bill Young, according to the Associated Press.
The pricey campaign was waged heavily on President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul. Sink, who ran for governor of the Sunshine State in 2010, fought back a litany of attacks for her support of Obamacare in the first Congressional election since the law's troubled rollout last fall. Jolly was portrayed as a former lobbyist beholden to special interests and whose calls for repeal of the health care law would move the country backward.
Voters were inundated with more than $9 million in television ads, many funded by outside groups that helped Jolly combat a major fundraising disadvantage.
The implications of the race resulted in involvement from political heavyweights on both sides. Former President Bill Clinton recorded a phone call for Sink down the final stretch of the campaign, and former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan appeared on a conference call for Jolly.
Republicans have said a Jolly victory in the swing district would be a sign of good things to come in November midterms.
“Tonight, one of Nancy Pelosi’s most prized candidates 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,” Rep. Greg Walden, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee said in a statement.
Obama narrowly won the district during his 2012 campaign and Sink carried it during her 2010 run in the state. But Young kept the seat in GOP hands during his more than four decades in Congress.
"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," Rep. Steve Israel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement.