Jay Collins, the apparent frontrunner in the Republican primary to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy of Tampa, has announced he will leave that race to run instead in the newly created District 15 based in northeast Hillsborough.
Collins is making the move after the Florida Legislature approved a new congressional district map proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis which makes Castor’s Democratic-leaning district even more strongly Democratic.
The new District 15 leans Republican, according to figures from political mapping expert Matthew Isbell.
In that new district, Collins will face a Republican primary including former state Rep. Jackie Toledo of Tampa and former U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland, who formerly represented much of the area it covers for eight years.
Asked why he wants to challenge two better-known GOP contenders, Collins said the race will be about “career politicians like Jackie Toledo and others more in tune with preserving their careers and finding their next post than serving their constituents.”
He said he is “the clear choice as a non-career politician.”
A former Green Beret combat medic who lost a leg in Afghanistan, Collins has based his campaign heavily on his military career.
“We need more people who live by an ethos of service and getting things done,” he said.
Collins is also making the move despite the harsh rhetoric he’s used against Castor In the past, calling her a “known supporter” of the Castro regime who backs a “socialist” and “far left liberal agenda.”
Asked why he would give up the fight against her to run for an open seat that seems likely to elect a Republican, he said running in District 15 is “is the best opportunity to make a difference.”
“We’re still taking on Kathy Castor, it’s just on a different playing field. … The best way for me to combat her left-leaning agenda is by taking this to (Washington) D.C. on an even playing field.”
In any case, Castor, now in her eighth term, appears likely to have another in a long string of comparatively easy re-election campaigns.
For decades, Republican-controlled Legislature have drawn district maps that pack Democratic voters into her district, making surrounding districts more Republican.
Under the new map Castor’s district covers territory that voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 59-40 percent. The new District 15 voted for Trump 51-48 percent.
As of the end of March Collins had raised $769,447 for his campaign, while his closest GOP competitor, James Judge, had $123,222, while Castor had $854,589.
Judge said the new map “doesn’t change a thing. I have every intention to continue my effort to unseat Ms. Castor.”
Democrat Alan Cohn, who previously ran for a seat similar to the new District 15, said he’s “seriously considering” filing for this race.