In Pasco County’s House District 56, three Republicans compete for an open seat

A USF student, a law enforcement veteran and a businessperson vie to replace state Rep. Amber Mariano.
From left, the candidates for the House District 56 race are Republicans Jayden Cocuzza, Scott Moore and Brad Yeager.
From left, the candidates for the House District 56 race are Republicans Jayden Cocuzza, Scott Moore and Brad Yeager. [ Courtesy of the candidates ]
Published Aug. 15, 2022

Three Republicans are vying for office in House District 56, which covers a part of Pasco County that includes New Port Richey, Holiday and Seven Springs.

The race pits youth against experience: 20-year-old Jayden Cocuzza, a rising junior at the University of South Florida, is running against Scott Moore, a retired law enforcement officer, and Brad Yeager, the general manager of a vehicle auctions company.

Related: Tampa Bay Times 2022 Primary Voter Guide: 100+ local candidates on the issues

The seat opened after state Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, the youngest member of the Florida House, announced she would not run for another term. Because no Democrat filed to run, the primary will be universal, meaning all registered voters within the district can vote no matter their party.

Cocuzza is a self-described “young Christian, Constitutional Republican” who was raised by a single mom in Pasco County and said he sees his youth as an asset. The River Ridge High graduate worked as West Pasco field director for U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis’ 2016 campaign.

He said he decided to run after seeing a lack of conservative values being pushed in Tallahassee, as well as a lack of representation for his county.

Cocuzza wants to reform Florida’s education system by expanding vocational and technical training.

“I’d like to see our students have a career focus rather than being dumped out of high school and telling them to figure it out on their own,” he said.

Moore, 62, served for 12 years on active duty in the Air Force, including in the Desert Storm and Desert Shield operations.

He has also worked as a special agent for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and as national director of investigations for Customs and Border Protection. He worked as a special agent in the counterterrorism squad for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Moore said his top legislative priority would be to champion law enforcement and border security.

“As a former special agent with FDLE, I was surprised to see the unevenness of the training provided to new police officers and deputy sheriffs as they go through the 13 police academies across the state,” he said. “There needs to be more rigid enforcement of standards to get higher trained officers and deputies coming out of the academy.”

Yeager, 46, is a businessperson with experience in sales and management. He is general manager at ADESA, which provides wholesale vehicle auction solutions to buyers and sellers.

He said if elected he would work to keep taxes low for individuals and businesses, expand educational choices for parents and students and work to “keep the family unit intact.”

He also plans to address the affordability crisis in Florida by increasing competition in the insurance industry.

“We need to create a competitive marketplace that will invite more companies to write insurance in Florida, allowing Floridians more competitive choices when it comes to insurance,” he said.