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Sharpe mulling viability of Congressional campaign

Whispers are growing louder that Republican Mark Sharpe may press the eject button on his challenge to Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, in the District 11 Congressional campaign.

Sharpe said he's still firmly in the race. But he acknowledged that he's closely following the redistricting debate in Tallahassee to see how boundaries are redrawn. And signs so far point to the district, which takes in much of Tampa, but also Democrat-tilted parts of southern St. Petersburg and Manatee County, remaining much like it is now. Meaning heavily tilted in favor of Democrats.

"Right now I'm just basically waiting to see the maps," Sharpe said. "I'm not pullting the plug. At the same time, we've tried to be clear that we want a competitive district. So I'm just waiting to see what the legislature gives us."

While those maps may become clearer in coming weeks, potential court challenges could drag out the process.

Federal Elections Commission records show Castor easily outpacing Sharpe in raising campaign money -- she has a better than 5 to 1 edge, though the latest reports available were through September. Sharpe said that will improve if new district boundaries make the campaign a fairer fight. He said he's not looking for a Republican majority of registered voters, just a close enough split to give him a reasonable shot.

Sharpe currently has more then two years left on his term as a Hillsborough County commissioner and could elect to continue in the post. Even if he stays in the race and loses, that's still an option.

Posted by Bill Varian at 5:08:17 pm on January 24, 2012