Congress faces a host of issues in the coming year, from addressing the coronavirus pandemic and immigration policy to dealing with national security, trade and energy, the environment and infrastructure. U.S. representatives are elected to two-year terms and paid $174,000 annually. The winners of the Aug. 18 primary face a general election Nov. 3.
Republicans: Anna Paulina Luna
Five candidates are running in the Republican primary to take on Democratic incumbent Charlie Crist in the Nov. 3 general election for U.S. House District 13, which spans much of Pinellas County. While the field is competitive, one candidate would be the best match against Crist: Anna Paulina Luna.
A first-time political candidate, Luna, 31, spent five years in the U.S. Air Force and a year in the Air National Guard. A graduate of West Florida University, she is the former director of Hispanic engagement for Turning Point U.S.A., a nonprofit that trains and organizes students to promote freedom. She’s currently the chairwoman of Hispanic initiatives at PragerU, a nonprofit that creates political and economic videos from a conservative perspective.
She supports many familiar conservative priorities — building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, repealing the Affordable Care Act, opposing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. She espouses the benefits of school choice and gun rights, and opposes a ban on assault-style weapons and magazine capacities.
Luna also champions improving water and ocean quality and opposes offshore drilling near Florida. She expressed a nuanced view of police reforms during an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, relaying an emotional story about how her father was unfairly beaten by law enforcement. A knock: She only moved into the district about a year ago.
Amanda Makki, 42, is another strong candidate. She’s polling well and has raised the most money — more than $1 million compared to $889,602 for George Buck and nearly $800,000 for Luna, as of the end of the June reporting period. The other two candidates hadn’t cracked $50,000.
A lawyer, Makki has worked for Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk and was a lobbyist in K&L Gates’ Washington office. She has the support of House Republican leaders, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Veteran and longtime firefighter George Buck, 64, lost to Crist two years ago. Crist garnered nearly 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent. Buck has said he can build on that total, though prominent national Republican leaders distanced themselves from him after he sent out a fundraising email late last year that suggested hanging U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Sharon Barry Newby, 75, is a first-time political candidate and long-time area resident. She said at a recent candidate forum that one of her top priorities would be civics lessons in school and to counter how children are indoctrinated by teachers and professors who “I’m not sure are even loyal to this country.”
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Like many of the candidates, Sheila Griffin supports term limits for members of Congress. Griffin, 62, also believes in smaller government and protecting Florida’s coasts from drilling.
Luna brings a fighter’s spirit and strong views to the race, which will be needed to mount a serious campaign against a popular incumbent in the general election. The Tampa Bay Times recommends Anna Paulina Luna in the Republican primary for U.S. representative, District 13.
Republicans: Christine Y. Quinn
Both Republicans in the race have run as congressional long-shots before, but only Christine Y. Quinn is mounting anything resembling a primary campaign.
Quinn, 60, owner of My Family’s Seasonings, ran unsuccessfully against the incumbent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, for this Tampa-area seat in 2016. Her platform is generic — create jobs, expand educational options, support the military and veterans — with few specifics of how she would address these goals or represent a diverse, urban constituency.
Quinn, though, at least has a campaign presence. Her primary opponent, Paul Sidney Elliott, is a 77-year-old Tampa attorney and former Hillsborough County court judge. As a no-party candidate, Elliott placed last in a four-way race for a three-county bay area congressional seat in 2012. He has raised little money this time and offered no public platform.
Effort counts for something. The Times recommends Christine Y. Quinn in the Republican primary for U.S. representative, District 14.
Republicans: Scott Franklin
Republicans have a wounded candidate in incumbent Rep. Ross Spano, who is under investigation for campaign loans. Scott Franklin is a fresh, compelling alternative, and a much stronger choice for the party in November.
Franklin, 55, is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and managing partner of an insurance firm in Lakeland. A Naval Aviator, he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2012 after serving 26 years, including 14 years on active duty. Franklin was also elected to the Lakeland City Commission in 2017. His strong business background, decades of public service and experience in elected office make him a well-rounded fit for this three-county district, which includes the eastern Hillsborough County communities of Brandon and Plant City, along with Lakeland and southern Lake County.
Franklin has a thoughtful, conservative agenda. He supports targeted federal help to recover from the impact hit of the coronavirus, expanded workforce training opportunities and an examination of how to reform Social Security and Medicare without reducing benefits to those already receiving them. Franklin is a party stalwart on hot-button issues; he opposes new gun restrictions and any path to legal residency or citizenship to immigrants in the country illegally. But he is “adamantly opposed” to offshore drilling near Florida, citing the health of the coasts as essential to Florida’s multibillion dollar tourism industry. Franklin has a feel for this district and an up-front nature that would combine to be a powerful voice in Washington.
Spano is a 54-year-old attorney who served three terms in the Florida House of Representatives after first being elected in 2012. While there, he was known for battling human trafficking, hardly an uphill political fight. Elected to Congress in 2018, Spano soon faced allegations that he illegally loaned his campaign $180,000 that was borrowed from friends. Spano said it was an unintentional mistake. Federal authorities and the Florida Bar are investigating.
Republicans deserve a nominee free of distractions and any ethical cloud. Franklin brings strong national security credentials and a keen sensitivity to veterans issues, which are valuable for a district with a rich military presence. He is the Republicans’ strongest choice in what’s sure to be a hotly contested general election. The Times recommends Scott Franklin in the Republican primary for U.S. representative, District 15.
Democrats: Adam Hattersley
Democrats have three attractive choices who each offer something completely different. But Adam Hattersley has the experience, broad support and agenda that set him apart.
Hattersley, 42, is a U.S. Navy veteran and small business owner who was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2018. He knows the east county communities in this district well, representing the greater Brandon areas in the Florida House. Though in office only a single term, he understands the evolving urban needs of these aging suburbs. And he has proven to be a fresh, articulate voice among Florida Democrats.
Hattersley would focus on health care and veterans issues and addressing climate-related impacts. He supports federal assistance to local governments to offset the economic losses from the coronavirus. He supports an option allowing younger Americans to buy into Medicare coverage, and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Hattersley believes the Trump administration’s tariffs have been counterproductive for U.S. trade and influence. He also supports a broad clean-energy platform.
Alan Cohn, 57, is a communications executive and former broadcast journalist. Cohn says his investigative skills will help as a member of Congress to hold politicians and other powerful people accountable. He wants to rebuild the economy for working families, make health care costs more transparent and affordable and take a leadership role in addressing climate change. Cohn is a passionate advocate and a strong communicator who can relate to the challenges of everyday Americans. Jesse Philippe, 32, a lawyer and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, also touts an economic agenda for the middle-class and new infrastructure spending.
Hattersley seems to have a better grip on the centrist nature of this district and the political skills needed to push a Democratic agenda. His legislative experience has given him policy depth and strong connections throughout the region. The Times recommends Adam Hattersley in the Democratic primary for U.S. representative, District 15.
Candidates not recommended by the editorial board are offered an opportunity to reply. They can send replies of up to 150 words by 5 p.m. July 27 to Editor of Editorials Graham Brink at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news