Adam Hattersley, a Democratic newcomer to politics, has announced he'll file for the Brandon-centered state House seat in District 59 and could face either Ronda Storms or Joe Wicker in the November election.
Storms, a former county commissioner, and Wicker are running in the Republican primary in the district, which state Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, is leaving vacant as he runs for attorney general.
Hattersley, 40, of Riverview, is a former nuclear submarine officer, U.S. Naval Academy instructor and Iraq deployment veteran who currently owns a franchise operation for business promotional items.
Though long held by Republicans, District 59 is a swing district that went for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by less than a percentage point in the 2016 election.
In 2012, the last time the district was an open seat, Gail Gottlieb lost by less than 2 percentage points to Spano; as an incumbent in 2014 and 2016, Spano won by larger margins.
Local Democratic party insiders say they don't know of any other potential Democratic candidate on the horizon.
Gottlieb wanted to run again this year but has been living in Washington working for a national Democratic women's club, and wouldn't meet the residency requirement, said local party executive director Mark Hanisee.
Hattersley, who holds a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan, said he's never run for office or been involved in politics before.
Asked why he chose now to run, he recounted working in a Navy recruiting office immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and expecting to see crowds of potential recruits the next day. But that didn't happen.
"People just said, 'They'll do something about it.' They don't realize that they is us, and 'us' means me."
He said he's particularly concerned about individual liberties, including gay rights, and about veterans, who he said comprise a disproportionate number of the nation's homeless.
Hattersley said he plans to file April 2 and will be working with Bryan Farris, a local Democratic consultant whose political clients have included city council member Guido Maniscalco.