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Retired colonel announces campaign for Tampa-area Congressional seat

TAMPA — Another Republican is mounting a campaign to win the U.S. House seat held by Democrat Kathy Castor.

Retired Air Force Col. E.J. Otero Jr. announced his candidacy for the District 11 congressional seat Tuesday morning at a press conference outside the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance.

He will take on Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe in the 2012 GOP primary.

Otero, 50, did not offer any direct criticism of Sharpe other than to say he'd had his shot.

"I'm not a professional politician," Otero said after his remarks. "It's time to bring in new blood."

Otero serves on the Hillsborough County chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. U.S. Senate candidate Adam Hasner recently named him to his Tampa campaign team.

Otero, of Tampa, retired after 28 years in the military. He spent 14 years working out of MacDill Air Force Base, first with U.S. Central Command and then Special Operations Command. He now works as an independent military commentator and an intelligence contractor.

Castor is in her third term representing the district, which includes Tampa, its nearby suburbs, the coastal areas of southeast Hillsborough and, in Pinellas County, Gulfport and parts of south St. Petersburg.

In his remarks, Otero connected Castor to President Barack Obama and said the election posed a choice between freedom and a "socialist road."

He said his top issues include shoring up funding for the military — he said Obama is "betraying" military personnel by considering cuts to their benefits.

Otero also said Castor had betrayed her Tampa constituents by voting to raise taxes on cigars, a move he said put one of his favorite Ybor City cigar shops out of business.

He said Congress should do more to make the economic environment more hospitable to businesses, which he hoped would then be able to hire more people. His most specific policy promise? He'd support eight-year term limits for members of Congress.

His choice to announce his candidacy in front of the unemployment office was no coincidence.

"Someday we're going to take the unemployment office here and make sure it's a museum," he said.

Reach Jodie Tillman at jtillman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3374.

Retired colonel announces campaign for Tampa-area Congressional seat 10/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 11:01pm]
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