Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Political novice Mike Prendergast stirs up race for Kathy Castor's seat

TAMPA — Mike Prendergast ambles through a pile of weeds, then ducks aside in the nick of time.

"Spiderwebs — that's one of the dangers," he says before knocking on the door of a potential voter Saturday morning.

It's a typical day for Prendergast, who's running for the U.S. House seat now occupied by Kathy Castor. The 54-year-old retired Army colonel has never run for office before, but aside from the spiders, he's having fun.

"Hi! I'm Col. Mike Prendergast!" he chirps to a man outside a South Tampa home. "I spent 31 years on active duty, and I came back home, and didn't like what I saw. … Can I get your vote?"

"Yeah, alright," the man replies.

Prendergast shakes the man's hand and moves on.

His wife, Naomi, follows in Prendergast's white Ford sport utility vehicle packed with campaign signs. In under 30 minutes on Saturday, two people approached the SUV asking for one. And each time, Prendergast stuck out his hand and beamed. "I'm Mike Prendergast!"

This political newcomer, a Republican from Apollo Beach, beat out three other Republicans in the August primary. So far he's raised more than $210,000 from individual contributors, and he said that's just the beginning.

Castor, who easily snagged her seat in the last two elections, said she hasn't gotten comfortable, but she's confident.

So far she's secured more than $636,000 in this race, a little more than she raised in 2008 when she clobbered Republican opponent Eddie Adams. She beat Adams the election before that, too, with 70 percent of the vote.

"I feel good, but you just can't take anything for granted. Every time, you've got to prove yourself," Castor said.

Like Castor, Prendergast grew up in Tampa. He was born on MacDill Air Force Base to a family of military veterans, played baseball at West Tampa's MacFarlane Park and went to high school at Clearwater Central Catholic.

In 1978, while working as a corporate manager of a Clearwater Radio Shack, Prendergast decided to join the Army. He planned on trying it for three years and stayed three decades.

Prendergast was in Afghanistan when he decided to run for office. He said he couldn't stand to sit helplessly as the economy tanked back home.

He wants to make permanent the Bush-era tax cuts, reduce business regulations and cut government spending. His TV ads label Castor as one of Washington's biggest spenders, positioning her photo next to that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"Washington's not the solution," he says solemnly to the camera. "It's the problem."

He calls the $787 billion stimulus bill "waste, fraud and abuse," noting that unemployment has climbed since the bill passed in 2008.

"If you link that back to policies in Washington, D.C., right now, it tells us we're on the wrong track," he said.

Like Castor, Prendergast said he wants U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan. His grown son is stationed there now. His daughter's husband is there too, on his seventh tour.

Unlike Castor, Prendergast is against a withdrawal timetable.

He said another facet of his campaign is restoring accountability to District 11, which represents a large part of Tampa, some of south St. Petersburg and part of northern Manatee County.

"The people in Tampa Bay don't have a voice in Washington that answers for her actions," Prendergast said of Castor. "That voice is AWOL from this district."

Prendergast says if he goes to Washington, he'll come back to town at least once a month for town hall-style meetings with constituents.

Castor's camp said its candidate does the same thing, and provided a list of local appearances she made since October 2009 — 18 in all.

Castor's campaign centers around creating jobs in medical and green energy fields and holding BP accountable for the gulf oil spill. She said she wants to fight for consumers and small businesses, preserve social security and leave Afghanistan starting next year.

She calls Prendergast's ideas a "return to the failed Bush policies that led to the economic collapse."

"Now we really can draw the contrast between the candidates," Castor said.

Prendergast said he wants people to do just that. He criticized Castor for failing to agree to a series of public debates before the Nov. 2 election.

Castor's camp said the two already debated, at a Tiger Bay meeting before the primary.

Through her campaign manager, Castor said she plans to attend two more candidate forums in October, but because of her busy schedule could not commit to anything beyond that.

Mike Prendergast

Age: 54.

Residence: Apollo Beach.

Education: Bachelor's degrees and master's degrees from five universities and the Army War College, in studies that include public diplomacy, public management, international relations, psychology, political science and sociology. He also has a certificate in African studies.

Experience: Prendergast served in the Army from 1978 to 2009. He also served as a defense policy adviser as a political science fellow for former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. He has no political experience.

Current job: Retired.

Political novice Mike Prendergast stirs up race for Kathy Castor's seat 10/04/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 7:24am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the third hole during the final round at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament in Nassau, Bahamas. Woods has been arrested on a drunken driving charge in Palm Beach County , various media outlets are reporting. [AP photo]
  2. Tiger Woods arrested on DUI charge in Florida

    Public Safety

    Tiger Woods was arrested on a DUI charge Monday in Jupiter, according to the Palm Beach County sheriff's office.

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a DUI charge in Florida.
  3. Young male hospitalized after shooting in St. Petersburg


    ST. PETERSBURG — A juvenile male was injured Monday morning in a shooting in the 2300 block of 17th Ave S, police said.

    A juvenile was injured in a shooting Monday morning in the 2300 block of 17th Ave S in St. Petersburg. (Zachary Sampson, Tampa Bay Times)
  4. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  5. How Hollywood is giving its biggest stars digital facelifts


    LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp is 53 years old but he doesn't look a day over 26 in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish "Cry Baby" face, however. It's all …

    This combination of photos released by Disney, shows the character Jack Sparrow at two stages of his life in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."  Johnny Depp, who portrays the character, is the latest mega-star to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen
[Disney via Associated Press]