TAMPA -— Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said Friday he is suspending his bid to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor.
Sharpe, a Republican, said new political district boundaries, which for District 11 are close to the old boundaries, make it "nearly impossible" for a Republican to have a chance of beating a Democrat. So he said he is tabling his campaign until the courts have a chance to hear challenges to the boundaries.
"There are lots of people who want to see a competitive race," Sharpe said Friday on Chris Ingram's Irreverent View political talk-radio program. "But when you look at the maps, it is nearly impossible to have a competitive race."
Legislators finalized political district boundaries for themselves and Congress last week. While they appear to maintain a Republican advantage by the way they bunch voters in many parts of the state, some districts, such as Castor's, continue to favor Democratic candidates. The seat takes in much of Tampa, but also part of south St. Petersburg, with high concentrations of Democratic voters.
By suspending his campaign rather than ending it, Sharpe said he can keep his campaign account open while focusing on issues important to his role as a county commissioner.
When he announced his candidacy in August, Sharpe acknowledged the challenge of overcoming Castor in a district that so heavily favors Democrats. But he said he would remain in the race whether the district stayed the same or was altered significantly through redistricting.
He has said in recent weeks that he has a hard time justifying asking people to contribute money to his campaign if he has next to no shot of winning. Federal records show he had raised $89,708 so far compared with $523,731 for Castor.
Two other Republicans, Evelio Otero and Mike Bennett, remain in the race.