Jay Collins, the apparent frontrunner in the Republican primary to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor 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 district even more strongly Democratic.
The new District 15, extending into Pasco, Polk and Lake counties, leans Republican, according to figures from political mapping expert Matthew Isbell.
In that new district, Collins will face a hard-fought Republican primary including state Rep. Jackie Toledo of Tampa, former U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland, who formerly represented much of the area it covers for eight years, and possibly others.
This week, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister endorsed Toledo.
Asked why he wants to challenge 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 also is making the move despite the harsh rhetoric he’s used against Castor In the past, calling her a “known supporter” of the Venezuelan regime who backs a “socialist” and “far-left liberal agenda.”
Asked why he would give up that fight to run for a 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.”
Now in her eighth term, Castor appears likely to have another in a string of comparatively easy reelection campaigns.
For decades, Republican-controlled Legislatures 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.
Before making the switch, Collins had raised $769,447, while his closest GOP competitor, James Judge, had $123,222, and 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.
Council races starting
The Tampa city election isn’t until March 7, 2023, but council candidates already are lining up, setting up for several contested races.
Read inspiring stories about ordinary lives
Subscribe to our free How They Lived newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
They include three who applied for but did not get the appointment to fill the open seat of former council member John Dingfelder — former School Board member Tamara Shamburger, teacher and environmental activist Sonja Brookins, and high-level Democratic Party activist Alan Clendenin.
Shamburger already has filed — and Clendenin intends to file — for the District 1 seat held by Joe Citro.
Citro said he intends to run for re-election.
Brookins has filed In the District 3 at-large seat that was vacated by Dingfelder’s resignation. Council member Lynn Hurtak, who was appointed to fill that seat, said she intends to run for re-election, probably to the same seat.
Tampa lawyer Hoyt Prindle, who has been active on transportation issues, including citizen advisory committees and the All For Transportation movement, has filed to run for the West Tampa-based District 6 seat. Prindle said he didn’t apply for the Dingfelder seat appointment because he specifically wanted to represent the West Tampa district.,
That seat currently is held by Council member Guido Maniscalco but will come open because Maniscalco is term-limited. Maniscalco, who could run for a citywide seat, said he will decide in the next month or so.
Shamburger and Brookins, both Black women, said the council has lacked diversity and needs more Black and more female representation.
Both noted that the last Black woman to serve on the council was Gwen Miller, who left office after the 2011 election; Shamburger said Miller was the only Black woman ever to hold a citywide seat.
Hurtak currently is the only female council member, and council chairman Orlando Gudes is the only Black member.
Driskell backs Crist
In the wake of the revelation of a likely Supreme Court overturn of the Roe v. Wade decision, state Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, has endorsed Charlie Crist for governor.
Driskell, in line to be state House Democratic caucus leader, chose Crist over his two female Democratic primary competitors, Nikki Fried and Annette Taddeo. She joins other prominent local Democratic women including Kathy Castor, Arthenia Joyner and Alex Sink backing Crist.
Fried and Taddeo both have criticized Crist for what they call past, inconsistent stands on abortion.