Congress faces familiar issues, from the federal deficit to immigration to entitlement reform. Three Republican primaries include a longtime incumbent in Pinellas and a race for an open seat in a sprawling new district that includes part of Hillsborough.
C.W. Bill Young District 13, Republicans
U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young is the longest-serving Republican House member, and only once in 42 years has he won less than 60 percent of the vote in the general election. Now he has a tea party challenger in the Republican primary and a credible Democratic opponent waiting in the general election for District 13, which covers most of Pinellas except for Tarpon Springs and Oldsmar to the north and part of St. Petersburg to the south.
Young, 81, has voted the Republican line against the economic stimulus, health care reform and consumer regulation reform. He voted for the unpalatable budget plan by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. But Young also continues to be a strong advocate for military veterans, protects Florida's shores from oil drilling, and is seeking federal money to help replenish Pinellas' storm-damaged beaches. As chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, he will have a strong voice in shaping spending cuts to help reduce the federal deficit.
Darren Ayres, 53, has backing from tea party supporters and entered the race when he thought Young would not seek re-election. He is a military veteran and Baptist minister who has owned small businesses and worked for nonprofits. Ayres wants to be more aggressive on cutting federal spending, but he does not make a compelling case against the incumbent.
In the Republican primary for U.S. House District 13, the Tampa Bay Times recommends C.W. Bill Young.
Evelio Otero | District 14, Republicans
Voters in this Republican primary are forced to choose between a first-time candidate who is foggy on the issues and a perennial one who doesn't campaign.
Evelio Otero is the best of two weak choices. A retired Air Force colonel, Otero, 51, at least has shown his commitment to public service and a respect for the democratic process by taking the campaign seriously. Otero has no specific agenda; he speaks in broad strokes about beefing up the military while still cutting the federal budget. He offers no plans for immigration or health care reform, though he expresses support for the space program which is critical to Florida, and he seems moderate in his approach to any entitlement cutbacks.
Eddie Adams Jr. has run for this seat umpteen times in the last several years, and his losing streak is matched only by his customary disregard for putting himself and his ideas on the line. Adams, 58, who owns a residential design firm, also talks broadly about reducing taxes and regulatory burdens. But after six years as a candidate he remains a blank page.
Otero is the Republicans' best hope in challenging incumbent Democrat Kathy Castor for this urban seat, which covers Tampa, a portion of St. Petersburg and the shoreline neighborhoods of Hillsborough County.
In the Republican primary for U.S. House District 14, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Evelio Otero.
Tom Rooney District 17, Republicans
The new 17th congressional district encompasses all or parts of 10 counties, including a portion of southeastern Hillsborough County. Hillsborough voters should look for a representative who won't lose them in the shuffle.
Tom Rooney of Palm Beach County is the ablest choice, having already represented much of this district since first being elected to Congress in 2008. The 41-year-old attorney and former military prosecutor is accessible and has a good feel for the diversity of the central and western portions of the state. He plans to move into the district.
Joe Arnold, an Okeechobee County School Board member and small farmer, is running to the right of Rooney. But the two agree on almost every issue, and Rooney has a conservative voting record. Arnold may be more of a budget hawk but Rooney is more practical, seeing the national security interest, for example, in funding foreign aid. Arnold, 37, has a more limited view of the scope of governing. And Rooney better understands how to balance the competing needs of urban and rural areas.
Rooney has a better grasp of concerns important to seniors and military veterans. That should make him visible in the Hillsborough communities of Sun City Center, Fish Hawk and Kings Point.
In the Republican primary for U.S. House District 17, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Tom Rooney.
This recommendation has been revised to reflect the following correction: Darren Ayres is a candidate in the Republican primary for U.S. House District 13. His last name was misspelled Monday.