Political newcomers vie for District 3 congressional seat

Seat up for grabs after Republican challenger defeats Cliff Stearns in primary

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Ted Yoho says his rise to be the Republican favorite to win Florida's 3rd congressional district is "like a Cinderella story."

Yoho, a large-animal veterinarian from Gainesville with no political experience, managed to defeat 12-term incumbent Cliff Stearns in the August GOP primary, immediately going from tea party outsider to a darling of the Republican party.

"We've gone from virtually no name recognition to now, a lot of people recognize who we are," Yoho said.

Yoho says he likes his Democratic opponent, J.R. Gaillot, but disagrees with him on most of the big issues, like health care reform and government regulation.

"I always joke that we have the same barber because our hairline is the same, but that's about the only similarity," Yoho said. "You know he's for bigger government; I'm not. I'm for personal responsibility, free enterprise. I want to promote those things because that's what's made America strong."

The district, which runs from Orange Park to the Gulf of Mexico covers 13 counties, strongly supported John McCain in 2008, but has slightly more Democratic voters than Republicans and includes Gainesville -- one of the few places in north Florida that Barack Obama carried last time. That gives Democrat J.R. Gaillot hope.

"Doctor Yoho talks about getting government out of the way, complete deregulation, let the free market take over. We've tried that. It hasn't worked," Gaillot said.

Gaillot, who lives in Fleming Island, supports the Affordable Care Act and considers himself a Blue-Dog Democrat, meaning fiscally conservative. When Mitt Romney criticized 47 percent of the country for not being responsible or paying taxes, Gaillot says the governor was talking about a group that includes him.

"I pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, but I usually end up paying too much and I get a refund," Gaillot said. "So that 47 percent comment that Gov. Romney made was quite offensive to me."

Also on the ballot in this race is independent candidate Philip Dodds (pictured, left), a software manager and small businessman who lives in Alachua.

"My big party opponents are unknowns," Dodds told WJXT. "This is north Florida's chance to elect a new kind of representative. A free independent. A direct representative."

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