Four candidates are fighting to represent District 12, which includes Polk, Hillsborough and Osceola counties, in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Republican John W. Lindsey Jr., 49, described himself as David running against Goliath. The Winter Haven resident knows he's the underdog, but thinks his lack of political experience could be what conservatives crave. He has held various positions at environmental regulation companies, most recently as a business development manager at Flowers Chemical Laboratories.
"We can't make changes until we get the usual suspects out," Lindsey said.
He identified four goals he hopes to achieve in Congress: repeal the health care reform act, secure American borders with a no-amnesty policy for illegal immigrants, end cap-and-trade and replace the existing tax code with a simpler version.
His opponent, Dennis Ross, 50, also wants to secure borders and repeal the health care act. The former state representative has an extensive political background, including time as a legislative aid in St. Petersburg and chairman of the Polk County Republican Executive Committee.
Ross said increased government spending will not fix the economy. Providing incentives for growth in the private sector, however, would create more jobs and could potentially fix other problems, like dependence on oil.
"We could take this district and incentivise the production of green energy in biofuels," Ross said. "That would spark a revolution in green energy."
Across the aisle, Democrats Lori Edwards, 53, and Doug Tudor, 47, also will battle to secure their party's nomination for the general election in November. Like their Republican opponents, they both want to focus on alternative energy and the economy.
Edwards, the former Polk County supervisor of elections, said she decided to run for Congress to protect the middle-class residents in the district.
"For a long, long time, maybe forever, Congress has managed to ignore middle-class, working people in favor of special interests that impact the system through lobbying," she said.
Edwards, who represented eastern Polk County in the Florida House, also wants to improve access to affordable health care, protect seniors and fight for better veterans services.
This campaign marks Tudor's second time running for Congress. In 2008 he took 42 percent of the vote against Republican Adam Putnam. He said he has learned from his mistakes two years ago: no more mincing words or riding the fence on issues.
"I'm willing to take a stance," Tudor said. "Even if someone disagrees, they know where I stand."
A retired Navy master chief, he said he views issues from a national security standpoint. No single issue is more important than another, said Tudor, who works as a program manager for a military defense contractor. Along with the economy, Tudor wants to improve education and redeploy troops from Iraq.
The winning candidates will face tea party candidate Randy Wilkinson in the general election.
Sarah Hutchins can be reached at (813) 661-2443 or [email protected]