TAMPA — Political newcomer Evelio "EJ" Otero Jr. easily defeated Eddie Adams Jr. in Tuesday's Republican primary for U.S. House District 14, and now faces U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
In a district that includes parts of Tampa, St. Petersburg and coastal east Hillsborough County, Otero took 60 percent of the 19,957 votes cast and beat Adams by a margin of about 4,100.
Otero overwhelmingly carried Hillsborough precincts, which account for 86 percent of District 14's voting-age population.
"It's humbling," Otero, 51, a retired colonel who served 28 years in the Air Force, said in a gathering with friends, family and supporters.
"It is an honor to have the opportunity to present new ideas for constituents in the Tampa Bay area. One of the things I did was listen carefully to folks.
"There was a sense of frustration I detected. They just wanted someone to talk to them about new ideas."
Adams, 58, could not be reached for comment.
The race pit Otero, a political novice with little name recognition, against Adams, a veteran of four previous unsuccessful campaigns, including three attempts at incumbent Castor's seat.
Both Otero and Adams said during the campaign that they knew it would be a formidable challenge to unseat her in November's general election.
Otero's first challenge against Castor will be money.
Despite being a political rookie, Otero far outpaced Adams in fundraising. As of June 30, Otero had raised $72,746 to Adams' $225.
But Castor, who faced no Democratic primary, has nearly $800,000 in her treasury.
Adams, of Temple Terrace, had never come close to unseating Castor. She beat him by about 40 percentage points in 2006 and 2008. In 2010, he lost the GOP primary to Mike Prendergast in the Republican primary.
Adams' first run for office was an unsuccessful bid for Temple Terrace City Council, running as a Democrat. Adams, the grandson of a Baptist preacher, said he decided the switch parties after that loss because he found his political philosophy better matched the GOP.
Otero, of Tampa, had worked 14 years at MacDill Air Force Base, including stints at U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command, which spearheaded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A political science and journalism major at Iowa State University, Otero also has a master's degree from the Air War College.
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected]