Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

In District 14 congressional race, Castor, Otero focused on MacDill Air Force Base

TAMPA — MacDill Air Force Base is the focus of the District 14 congressional race between Democratic incumbent Rep. Kathy Castor and her GOP challenger Evelio "E.J." Otero Jr.

Otero, 51, says Pentagon budget cuts put MacDill in jeopardy of closure and insists he has the chops to protect the base because he is a retired Air Force colonel with 28 years of service, the last 14 of those at the base.

He noted that the military is expected to cut $500 billion in the next decade.

Castor, 46, calls that concern an exaggeration, noting the Pentagon has spent hundreds of million of dollars upgrading the base since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Two of the nation's combatant commands, U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command, are headquartered at MacDill, in addition to the base's host unit, the 6th Air Mobility Wing.

"They are fortunately not at risk of substantial cutbacks because the threat to our national security remains in the Middle East," Castor said. "And SOCom's mission is actually growing."

Otero worked at both commands before his 2010 retirement and served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he helped lead the effort to build a CentCom oversea command headquarters and negotiated with U.S. partners in the region.

"I don't buy it," Otero said of talk that MacDill is safe from closure because of Pentagon investment in the base. "We cannot get comfortable. The minute you do, you get caught with your pants down."

He said CentCom has cut more than 2,000 positions in recent years, though much of those were temporary positions filled after the military buildup following the 9/11 attacks.

Castor points to her work leading the political effort to bring the Air Force's next-generation aerial refueling jet, the KC-46, to MacDill. Several bases are in competition with MacDill to win the first batch of the tankers expected to start coming off assembly lines in 2017.

A decision by the Air Force is expected by next year.

"We wanted to ensure the Air Force didn't overlook the strengths of MacDill," said Castor, who led a delegation to the Pentagon earlier this year to lobby on MacDill's behalf. "We wanted to remind them how much Tampa Bay values the base."

Both candidates say they favor eliminating wasteful spending in the military and other government agencies.

Both Castor and Otero point to the Port of Tampa as an engine of job creation for Tampa Bay.

Castor, a former Hillsborough County commissioner, has touted that Tampa gets more shipyard investment cash than any other U.S. port. Otero, who was born in Puerto Rico and whose father was a Cuban immigrant, criticized Castor for not doing more to develop trade with Latin America.

"I have a strong record in helping create jobs through investments," Castor said.

She said Tampa International Airport boasts the second-highest number of flights to Cuba in the nation. Castor has urged President Barack Obama to relax travel restrictions to Cuba, including a restoration of U.S.-Cuba charter flights after an absence of a half century.

Meanwhile, Otero said his work in the military involved negotiations with other governments. "That gives me a tremendous advantage" over Castor in working to build trade with Latin America, he said.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, provides sharp division between the two candidates.

Otero said he likes some of its provisions, including one allowing those with existing conditions to obtain insurance. But he said Obamacare is flawed.

"The intent is a good one," Otero said. "Most people agree with that. … Absolutely, people need to be helped. The question is, to what extent do we stress the taxpayer?"

Castor said Obamacare already is helping Floridians, including sons and daughters who are now allowed to stay on their parents' health insurance until age 26.

When U.S. House Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare in July, Castor said the law's rollback "would actually harm job growth as the law makes key investments in health care jobs — including critical investments to increase the number of health care providers and strengthen the primary care workforce."

The candidates have not yet appeared in a debate. Otero said Castor has not answered his repeated calls for a debate. Castor said, "There just haven't been enough opportunities."

District 14, which includes much of Tampa, coastal southeastern Hillsborough County and a piece of southern Pinellas County, is solidly Democratic. Evidence of that is Castor's solid lead in fundraising. She's raised $966,414 to Otero's $114,497 as of Sept. 30.

Cash on hand for the closing weeks of the campaign was similarly lopsided: Castor has $785,000 banked to Otero's $36,626.

In District 14 congressional race, Castor, Otero focused on MacDill Air Force Base 10/22/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 22, 2012 11:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Storm routs Cleveland


    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  2. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  3. Rowdies shut out Charleston


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.
  4. 13-year-old Janessa's father holds memorial service at Rogers Middle School


    RIVERVIEW — About 100 people sat in the tile-floored multipurpose room Saturday at Rodgers Middle School where Janessa Shannon once sat as a student.

    A mourner embraces Nahshon Shannon after the memorial service for Nahshon’s daughter, Janessa, Saturday at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview.
  5. Trump: Aircraft carrier a symbol of America's might (w/video)


    NORFOLK, Va. — With praise and a blessing for the military, President Donald Trump helped hand over the USS Gerald R. Ford to the Navy on Saturday and said the state-of-the-art aircraft carrier will send a "100,000-ton message to the world" about America's military might when it is ultimately deployed.

    President Donald Trump commissions the USS Gerald R. Ford on Saturday in Norfolk, Va.