WASHINGTON (AP) — The House's newest congressman struck a note of collegiality on Thursday after a bitter campaign to fill the seat.
Republican David Jolly of Florida declared the hard-fought race over moments after Speaker John Boehner administered the oath. Jolly edged out Democrat Alex Sink on Tuesday in a special election that Republicans cast as a referendum on President Barack Obama and his unpopular health care law.
The Tampa-area district had been considered a toss-up and the two parties, outside groups and candidates spent millions of dollars on television advertising, much of it critical and linked to the health care law. Sink outspent Jolly by more than 3 to 1, though outside groups aligned with the GOP helped narrow the overall Democratic advantage.
Receiving a standing ovation and applause from Republicans and Democrats, Jolly said in his initial remarks that he believes "in this institution, the people's house. ... I believe in civility." He stood in the well of the House, surrounded by members of Florida's congressional delegation.
Jolly said the fight is for the country, "not a fight against each other."
Jolly, 41, fills the open seat that had been held for decades by Republican C.W. Bill Young, who died in October. Jolly has long experience in Washington, first as an aide to Young and then as a lobbyist.
He mentioned his work for a man who left an "indelible legacy in the House."
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the dean of the delegation, highlighted Jolly's progression from congressional staffer to lawmaker and said he would ensure that Young's legacy continues. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., said Jolly had big shoes to fill.
Despite Jolly's comments, the next campaign is just eight months away as he will run for the full two-year term.
Republicans now hold 233 seats in the House to the Democrats' 199. There are three vacancies.