Republican Brian Mast will defeat Democrat Randy Perkins in Florida’s 18th District, The Associated Press projects.
With 65 percent of precincts reporting, Mast led Perkins by about 10 points.
The race between Mast, an Army veteran who lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan, and Perkins, a businessman and South Florida native, was to fill the House seat left open by incumbent Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy’s decision to run for Senate against GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.
Florida’s 18th District includes most of the Treasure Coast in St. Lucie and Martin counties and parts of Palm Beach County.
Coming into Election Day, the race was rated a Tossup by The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call. President Barack Obama carried the district by 3 points in 2008, but lost it by 4 points to Mitt Romney in 2012. Murphy won this seat in 2012 and 2014. Keeping this seat in their column would have been key for Democrats, who needed to gain 30 seats to win the House majority.
Despite being a Democrat, Perkins had drawn stylistic comparison to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Mast said in an interview that his urgent task will be to try to stop what he calls “the destruction of our coastal waters because of the water being let out of Lake Okeechobee by the Corps of Engineers into our salt water estuaries.”
The Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing nutrient-laden water from Lake Okeechobee to relieve pressure on the dam that surrounds the lake.
The releases have caused the growth of algae, which have killed fish and emitted noxious odors in the St. Lucie River.
Mast said that he would seek to sit on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Corps of Engineers’ water resources programs.