TAMPA — Kathy Castor has represented Tampa in Congress for nearly 14 years. A close ally to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she won’t be easy to dislodge in her quest for an eighth term.
On Tuesday, two old foes of Castor will compete for the right for a second chance to pull off a massive upset in the solidly Blue 14th Congressional District.
A battle for the Republican party’s soul rages in a congressional primary match across the bay, as Amanda Makki tangles with Anna Paulina Luna in the 13th. Meanwhile, the race to take on Castor barely qualifies as a skirmish.
Two Tampa residents, who tried to defeat Castor at different points over the past eight years, are back for seconds.
Christine Yvonne Quinn, 60, who is renting a house in Rocky Point, owns and operates My Family’s Seasonings, a food manufacturing business in Pinellas. She lost to Castor in 2016 with 38 percent of the vote.
Quinn is a fervent supporter of President Donald Trump, especially his hard-line trade policies and his emphasis on small business and manufacturing.
The other Republican on Tuesday's GOP primary ballot is Paul Sidney Elliott, 77, a lawyer and former Hillsborough County judge. Elliott finished fourth in a four-way race in 2012.
Neither has raised much money. Castor’s nearly $600,000 campaign war chest is approximately nine times as large as the combined contributions and loans tallied by Quinn and Elliott. And both have loaned substantial sums to their campaigns.
Anthony Pedicini, a longtime GOP consultant in Hillsborough, put it succinctly.
“Neither of them have a chance to beat Castor,” Pedicini texted in response to a Times’ reporter’s query.
Pedicini wasn’t familiar with either candidate. Quinn is being managed by a Jacksonville-based consultant with ties to Tampa. It is unclear if Elliott has any help in his campaign.
But much better-known Republicans have taken a pass at attempting to dislodge Castor — that should tell you something, he said.
“It’s just not a winnable seat in general for Republicans,” Pedicini texted.
Quinn spoke at a Trump campaign rally in Tampa in 2016 and says that she would be the president’s preferred choice to take down Castor.
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Quinn doesn’t think much of Castor’s chairmanship of a congressional climate change committee. Mostly because, Quinn says, as a biological sciences major at a college in California, she knows that climate change isn’t due to man-made activity. That position puts her at odds with the vast majority of the scientific community and as well as a healthy majority of Americans polled on the issue over the last several years.
“Mankind is very arrogant if they think they can change the climate. The climate is constantly changing,” Quinn said in a phone interview Thursday. She referenced the Yellowstone valley in Wyoming and Montana as an example of drastic changes to the earth’s climate over time.
“We live on a living, breathing earth,” she said.
Quinn thinks Castor is “Pelosi’s puppet.” The key to bettering her performance against the incumbent will involve intense grassroots organizing for door knocking and sign planting, she said.
A large bundle of big Quinn for Congress signs waited in her Pinellas warehouse this week. A Times reporter was asked not to photograph them.
Elliott is more elusive. He declined to be interviewed over the phone, but said he would meet a Times reporter anywhere and anytime. The Times declined the face-to-face meeting because of public health guidelines and newsroom policy.
Elliott is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and an attorney of nearly a half-century standing. He was also a county judge in Hillsborough during the 1980s.
He would not explain his insistence on a face-to-face meeting with a reporter. He did indicate, however, that he wished to bring along a court reporter to any interview.