MIAMI — Republican Marco Rubio won election Tuesday to the U.S. Senate, capping his transformation from dark-horse candidate to tea-party darling by turning a three-way race into a rout.
Rubio kept the seat in the GOP column by easily beating Gov. Charlie Crist, who ran as an independent, and Democrat Kendrick Meek. The result was so lopsided Rubio was declared the winner shortly after polls closed in Florida's Panhandle.
The race between candidates to replace Crist as governor was expected to be much closer. That closely watched contest matched Republican businessman Rick Scott against Democrat Alex Sink, Florida's chief financial officer.
With 41 percent of the expected vote counted, Scott had 51 percent, while Sink had 46 percent.
Republicans were cleaning up on the rest of the ballot, winning two of the three Cabinet races and leading in the third. They also had won or were winning most of the competitive congressional races.
With Florida facing nearly 12 percent unemployment and one of the nation's highest foreclosure rates, many voters went to the polls frustrated with Washington politics and glad election day had finally arrived. Across the state, lines formed at many polling sites before the doors opened.
"I just want this day to be over," said Steve Wise of Coconut Grove. "Because it has been too much — political ads, newscasts, too much talking heads. I just want to move on and get this country back."
Rubio made the election a referendum on government size and spending. His message: President Barack Obama's policies are a disaster.
At the outset, GOP leaders tried to force Rubio out of the race so Crist could claim the Republican nomination. But Rubio overtook Crist in the polls by arguing the governor wasn't a principled conservative.
Crist then decided to run as an independent, and as the moderate in the race, he siphoned away Democratic votes from Meek. As a result, Rubio easily won the seat held by Republican Sen. George LeMieux, who was appointed by Crist year to fill the remainder of Mel Martinez's term.
In exit polling, three-quarters of Florida voters described themselves as dissatisfied or angry with the federal government, and Rubio got the overwhelming majority of those votes. About a third of voters said they cast ballots to express opposition to Obama, and Rubio received most of that support as well.
Also on the ballot were amendments that could reshape how Florida's congressional districts are drawn, making it tougher for the Legislature to gerrymander them. The amendments come before the results of this year's Census, which will decide the number of the districts for the next decade. Florida is expected to pick up a 26th seat.
Among those defeated was brash Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a freshman who lost to former Florida House speaker Daniel Webster of Winter Garden. That was one of several Florida congressional races expected to affect the balance of power in Washington.
In the 25th District in Miami-Dade and Collier counties, former Department of Energy official Democrat Joe Garcia faced a fellow Cuban-American, State Rep. David Rivera, for one of the country's few Republican seats up for grabs.
In South Florida's District 22, incumbent Democrat Ron Klein faced Republican Allen West, a retired Army officer who was booted from his command in Iraq after firing a gun near a prisoner's head.
Democrat Suzanne Kosmas was in a tight race in central Florida, as was Democrat Allen Boyd in north Florida.
Two Republicans won cabinet jobs in early results. Jeff Atwater was elected chief finiancial officer, and Adam Putnam won the race for agriculture commissioner. Pam Bondi was leading in the race for attorney general.
Election officials said voting ran smoothly statewide. Mindful of the economy, many Floridians seemed in the mood to shake things up.
"I just hope there's a good turnout today and that we're going to have some real change," Nita Morgan said. She and her husband were among the early voters in Orlando.
"You've just got to do a lot of reading and researching," Jack Morgan said. "And praying."
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Election 2010
SPECIAL SECTION: Election 2010
View our complete coverage of the 2010 Elections. Covering everything from the Collier County school board to the US Senate mid-term elections. Video, photos, stories, campaign contributions, polls and more can be found in our special section.
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- Rick Scott's victory rally
- Alex Sink's concession speech
- Reaction to Scott's election rally
- Scott confident he's governor
- Pat Carroll keeps position in School Board
- Alex Sink Speech (Part I)
- Alex Sink Speech (Part II)
- Early scenes from Scott's rally
- Rick Scott addresses supporters in the early morning hours
- It's hurry up and wait for Rick Scott supporters
- Sink; "We will not stop until every voice is heard."
- Pat Carroll wins District 1 seat for Collier School Board
- Barbara Berry wins Collier School Board seat
- Roy Terry wins Collier School Board seat
- Roseanne Winter defeated by Pat Carroll in school board race
- Kathy Ryan loses to Barbara Berry in Collier School Board Race
- Incumbent Brian Bigelow keeps Lee commissioner's seat
- Marco Rubio wins U.S. Senate seat
- Crist succumbs to Rubio in U.S. Senate race
- Alex Sink waits for results in Governor's race
- Pam Bondi wins Florida Attorney General race
- Naples heads to the polls
- Scott supporters gather in Fort Lauderdale
- Election Day 2010: Results
- Chat archive: Daily News editor Phil Lewis talks about Florida elections
- Sink concedes, Naples' Rick Scott is Florida's new governor
- Collier County School Board: Carroll, Berry, Terry win
- Rivera has comfortable lead for South Florida Congress 25 seat; Mack winning
- Class size amendment losing; Collier may have to rezone elementary schools
- An incumbent ousted in Collier fire board races
- Straw ballot: Collier voters support fire district consolidation
- GOP gains in Southwest Florida legislative seats
- Hall, Bigelow win re-election in Lee County Commission race
- Bonita, Estero fire seats: Incumbents barely hold on to seats
- Sold! Estates shopping center wins at the voting booth
- Marco Rubio wins Senate over Crist, Meek
- Hometown Democracy (Amendment 4) losing statewide, and in Collier, Lee
- Fischer captures Lee County School board seat
- As expected Hiller cruises to Collier County Commission victory
- Two incumbents, three newcomers elected to Lee Memorial Hospital Board
- Mann of the hour: Familiar name wins Lee County judge seat
- Incumbent and newcomer lead for seats on mosquito, soil and water boards
- Republican Pam Bondi takes attorney general race
- Republicans win 7 House seats in Ind, Fla, Va
- 3 Florida Democrat congressional incumbents unseated
- GOP captures governorships in at least 4 states
- GOP gains two-thirds majority in Florida Legislature