Times columnist Ernest Hooper offers his analysis of key races for the Nov. 2 general election. These are not endorsements.
U.S. CONGRESS, DISTRICT 12
Every Hillsborough voter in this district should tell pollsters they are undecided. Perhaps then, we could get a little more love from the three Polk County residents running to replace popular Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow. I've met Democrat Lori Edwards, Republican Dennis Ross and tea party candidate Randy Wilkinson, but none of the three seems to have spent a lot of time campaigning here.
Wilkinson probably established the biggest presence, but the momentum he grabbed by declaring himself a tea party candidate seems to have faded. Edwards faces the steep challenge of being a Democrat in what appears to be a comeback year for Republicans, but her role as Polk supervisor of elections means she can't be discounted. Ross hopes to ride the GOP wave to victory, but I think Wilkinson siphons off enough support to open the door for an Edwards win.
U.S. CONGRESS, DISTRICT 11
Ever since Columbia Restaurant president Richard Gonzmart threw his considerable influence behind Mike Prendergast's campaign, I've seen it as a sign that the former Army colonel could not be discounted by incumbent Congresswoman Kathy Castor.
Prendergast banks on an anti-Obama, anti-incumbent backlash overwhelming Castor, but even in this unpredictable year, that outcome seems unlikely. Castor's popularity and work bringing federal funding back to the district will be too much for Prendergast to overcome.
U.S. CONGRESS, DISTRICT 9
After writing that no Democrat could threaten incumbent Gus Bilirakis (either Gus or his father, Mike, have held the seat since 1983), I got an e-mail from the Anita de Palma campaign touting her experience as a Hispanic activist. I applaud de Palma for trying to keep Gus accountable, but in the end, he wins in a cakewalk.