It didn't take long for the once-crowded race for the U.S. House District 11 seat to get ugly.
After incumbent Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Tampa, defeated tea party member Tim Curtis in the primary, and retired Army colonel Mike Prendergast overcame his three Republican opponents, the two rivals got to work attacking each other.
The seat represents a large part of Tampa, a chunk of south St. Petersburg and part of northern Manatee County.
Prendergast, 54, also from Tampa, quickly released a couple of television ads labeling Castor one of "WASHINGTON'S BIGGEST SPENDERS," positioning her photo next to Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Castor, 44, continually blasts Prendergast for wanting to "return to the failed Bush policies that lead to the economic collapse."
Both candidates point to job creation as issue No. 1, and both agree that the war in Afghanistan needs to be wrapped up sooner rather than later.
But how they would arrive at those ends differs greatly.
Castor said bills currently being hammered out in Washington will help small businesses secure loans. She points to high-speed rail and industries in the medical and green technology fields as viable job creators.
She has also made holding BP accountable for the oil spill in the gulf a campaign cornerstone, and she supports President Barack Obama's plan for withdrawal from Afghanistan starting in 2011.
Prendergast, who has never run for office before, blames the faltering economy on out-of-control spending and too much government interference in the private sector.
"People here in our communities are losing their jobs, losing their homes, losing their hope," Prendergast said. "If you link that back to policies in Washington D.C. right now, it tells us we're on the wrong track."
He wants to make Bush's tax cuts permanent, reduce the budget and scale back regulations on businesses.
Like Castor, Prendergast wants to see the war in Afghanistan come to a close, but he disagrees with announcing a withdrawal date.
He cited his 31 years of military experience as an indicator of his leadership qualities.
"I've always been accountable to the people of my hometown, here, where I was born and raised," Prendergast said.
Despite having easily won her spot in the last two elections, Castor said she hasn't gotten comfortable.
"I feel good, but you just cant take anything for granted," Castor said. "Every time you've got to prove yourself."
Kim Wilmath can be reached at (813) 661-2442 or firstname.lastname@example.org.