TAMPA — Late last week, Maj. Bret Wedding returned from a six-month deployment as a logistics officer for troops fighting in Afghanistan.
The next day, Wedding, 37, became a candidate for the state House of Representatives in District 63, which covers parts of New Tampa and northern Hillsborough County.
The Air Force reservist is running in the Republican primary, where he would face former state representative and ex-Tampa City Council member Shawn Harrison. Incumbent Rep. Mark Danish is the only Democrat in the race.
Wedding said as a legislator he would focus on job creation, transparency, keeping government small, taxes low and families safe.
"We need some people who are here to serve the people they are supposed to be representing, and not their own selfish needs," he said. "We need to get back to the basics of principles over politics."
As of Wednesday, Wedding was not a registered voter in Hillsborough County. He said he believed he was, and that he went to the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Office last year to register and vote in the presidential election. Elections office spokeswoman Gerri Kramer said Wedding did cast a provisional ballot last November, but it was rejected because he was not a registered voter.
"I'm glad you told me," he told a reporter. "I will be ensuring that I re-register."
Wedding is scheduled to kick off his campaign tonight at the Embassy Suites near the University of South Florida. Supporter John Sykes, the founder of Sykes Enterprises, praised Wedding as someone who is independent, "who knows what he wants to accomplish, and you don't have to second-guess his word."
Wedding is commander of the 927th Logistics Readiness Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, an assignment he's had since 2010. His latest deployment was his fifth. In Afghanistan, his duties included leading teams responsible for logistics, civil engineering, human resources, contracting, communication and more in support of combat operations.
A Florida native, Wedding is a 1999 graduate of the University of Central Florida, where he studied organizational communications. He and his wife, Cindy, have two daughters.
They live on Davis Islands, but Wedding said they are selling the house so they can move into District 63, which covers parts of New Tampa, Pebble Creek, Lutz and Carrollwood, plus areas near USF and Lake Magdalene.
In 2012, Harrison was the incumbent and out-raised Danish $299,000 to $19,500. But Danish, a middle school science teacher, benefitted from President Barack Obama's big Democratic turnout and won the seat by 1 percent.
So far in this election cycle, Harrison has out-raised Danish $44,735 to $34,744.
Harrison said he hasn't met Wedding but said he honors his military service. As a legislator, Harrison added, he sponsored Amendment 9, which provides targeted tax relief for spouses of military service members killed in action.
Beyond that, Harrison said, "he doesn't live in District 63, so I really don't have much of an opinion."
Harrison said he didn't expect having a challenger to make a difference in his campaign, which has endorsements from more than 20 representatives, state senators Bill Galvano and John Legg, Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober and County Commissioners Mark Sharpe, Sandra Murman and Victor Crist.
"I'm full speed ahead whether I'm the only person in the primary or whether there's 10 people in the primary," he said.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.