Tea party candidate adds wrinkle to District 57 race
Nineteen tea party candidates qualified last week to run for state legislative races. Among them: Matt Russell, who threw his hat in the ring for the District 57 state House seat. Russell is a 22-year-old recent college graduate who grew up in Tallahassee and still lists his parents' house as his permanent residence. He said he has never lived in Tampa, although he did live briefly in Lakeland and has visited Tampa. "It's a beautiful city with a rich heritage that I'd love to be a part of," he said in an e-mail exchange. Russell seemed to know little about the race he had entered.
So why run? Russell offered this: "While in my undergrad I became interested in politics and began following Libertarian candidates. Being a fan of lower taxes, smaller government, and getting rid of special interests, I thought, 'Why wait?' We need those problems and 'politics as usual' in Tallahassee taken care of NOW -- we can't sit around and wait for Republicans to find their way back to their core values and quit selling their votes."
Stacy Frank is the only Democrat in the District 57 race, and she's likely to benefit from Russell's candidacy, given that the district is split nearly evenly among Democrats and Republicans. Republican Faye Culp is term-limited out of the post.
Contacted by BayBuzz, Frank said she's not thinking about Russell but staying focused on her own campaign, pointing out that she has always been opposed to offshore oil drilling. Three candidates will face off in the Republican primary: Dana Young, Dan Molloy and Todd Marks. Young said she's not giving Russell any thought, choosing instead to put her energy into winning the primary in August.
Marks, though, had some choice words about Russell. "I wholeheartedly support the tea party movement of concerned citizens engaging in the political process, many for the first time in their life," Marks said. "Unfortunately, the movement is being hijacked by stooges for the Democratic party and democratic political operatives to gain a competitive advantage for liberal democrats like Stacy Frank. The goal here is to siphon off 6 percent or so of the electorate to stage an upset over Republican candidates who would normally enjoy their support."
Marks, who is the most conservative of the three GOP candidates in the race, said he expects support from "true tea party folks" and was meeting with some tonight, who appreciate his position on tougher enforcement of immigration laws.
Janet Zink, Times staff writer