Cliff Stearns was elected to the U.S. House in 1988 with 53 percent of the vote, defeating Democrat Jon L. Mills, speaker of the Florida House. He was re-elected in 1990 with 59 percent of the vote, defeating Democrat Art Johnson.
He won re-election again in 1992 with 65 percent of the vote, defeating Democrat Phil Denton. He was unopposed in 1994. In 1996, he was re-elected with 67 percent of the vote against Democrat Newell O'Brien.
Stearns was unopposed again in 1998 and re-elected in 2000 after being challenged only by two write-in candidates. In 2002, Stearns defeated Democrat David Bruderly with 65 percent of the vote.