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Four Tampa Bay races for U.S. House: Times Editorial Board recommendations
Incumbents currently hold two of the seats; the other two will be filled with newcomers to Congress.
 
The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C..
The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.. [ ANNA MONEYMAKER | Getty Images North America ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Oct. 13, 2022|Updated Oct. 26, 2022

A sharply divided U.S. House of Representatives faces numerous challenges, from addressing inflation and immigration to protecting civil liberties, voting rights and the environment. Members are elected to two-year terms and paid $174,000 annually. The general election is Nov. 8.

Related: Read the Times recommendations in other races.

District 13: Eric Lynn, Democrat

Eric Lynn
Eric Lynn [ Courtesy of Eric Lynn campaign ]

Eric Lynn, 44, is running for the seat held by Rep. Charlie Crist until he resigned last month to focus on his run for governor. The district’s voters used to lean Democratic, but now tilt the other way after the recent redistricting process pushed the boundaries north. Lynn is a moderate Democrat and the candidate best suited to represent the district.

Lynn is a graduate of St. Petersburg High School, Northwestern University and Georgetown Law. He previously worked as a congressional aide and served as national security adviser to President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. He then joined the administration as an adviser to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He is a national security consultant, and he also co-owns Landguard Title Services, a St. Petersburg-based title insurance company.

His top priorities included combating inflation with tax cuts for the middle class and lower health care costs. He also wants to promote training programs for truckers, longshoremen and other jobs that will help remedy supply chain delays. He says he would push for strong defense spending, more resources for veterans and protecting the environment, including beaches, waterways, wildlife and the Gulf of Mexico, protections which he adds are “good for the economy.”

He did not support hiring 87,000 more IRS employees, wants to increase G.I. Bill benefits and supports the abortion protections granted by the Roe v. Wade case, until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the decision earlier this year.

Lynn describes himself as a moderate who isn’t interested in being a flamethrower. He said he would like to be part of Congress’ Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of Democrats and Republicans who try to foster cooperation on key policies. It’s not surprising that Lynn is endorsed by Crist, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and many other prominent Democrats. But he also won the endorsement of the Independent Party of Florida.

Lynn faces Republican Anna Paulina Luna, who lost to Crist two years ago but has a better chance this year with the redrawn district. Luna grew up in Southern California and spent five years in the U.S. Air Force and a year in the Air National Guard. A graduate of West Florida University, she has worked as director of Hispanic engagement for Turning Point USA., a nonprofit that trains and organizes students to promote freedom, and as chairperson of Hispanic initiatives at PragerU, a nonprofit that creates political and economic videos from a conservative perspective. She said she moved to the Tampa Bay area in 2019 after her husband was relocated to MacDill Air Force Base.

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Luna, 33, has described herself as a “pro-life extremist” and publicly supported Texas’ abortion law that bans abortions at about six weeks and allows private citizens to file a civil lawsuit against anyone who knowingly “aids or abets” an abortion. She is endorsed by former President Donald Trump and parrots much of his messaging. She has expressed doubts that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and spread misinformation on social media that Dominion Voting Systems equipment rigged the election.

Luna, who once called herself “a two-time very avid supporter of Obama in my early years and considered myself a Democrat,” has moved farther to the right in the two years since she last ran for office. Her election denials and other comments lead this editorial board to believe that she could join the ranks of Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and others in Congress who consistently embrace conspiracy theories, spread lies and undermine the democratic process. She might not. She might tack back to a more productive conservative platform, but the fact that we even have to raise the possibility is a deal breaker.

Eric Lynn is a strong, centrist Democratic who has the best interests of the district and the country in mind. He would make a good member of Congress. For U.S. Representative District 13, the Times recommends Eric Lynn.

District 14: Kathy Castor, Democrat

Kathy Castor
Kathy Castor [ handout ]

Kathy Castor has been a strong, tireless voice in Congress for Tampa and the entire region, and she deserves another term.

Castor is a 56-year-old attorney who was first elected to Congress in 2006 after spending four years on the Hillsborough County Commission. She is a longtime champion of children’s health, job training and veterans’ programs, and her profile in Washington has helped secure key investments across Tampa Bay, from improvements to education and transportation to major regional medical facilities.

Castor has a solidly middle-class agenda, supporting affordable housing initiatives, infrastructure funding and spending on nutrition programs, small-business development and improved mental health services. Her experience in local government gives Castor a keen sensitivity to the everyday priorities of average people. She has secured tens of millions of dollars in federal grants for better roads and mass transit, safer streets, veterans’ health facilities and community centers. Castor has also been an effective advocate for Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, helping this region to secure a vibrant defense installation and major employer.

Her Republican challenger, James Judge, is a 38-year-old U.S. Coast Guard veteran who founded a Tampa-based public relations and marketing firm in 2011. Judge describes himself as a pro-gun, free speech conservative with libertarian leanings. He supports a flat tax on consumption, fewer regulations and decreased federal spending, and wants to explore handing some federal services down to the states. Judge shows a practical side on some controversial issues, such as immigration. He also supports some measures with bipartisan appeal, such as a ban on offshore drilling near Florida and efforts to reduce global-warming greenhouse gas emissions. But Castor has made those issues priorities already, and demonstrated her ability to get things done. Her appointment as chairperson of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis reflects her leadership on an issue that uniquely threatens Florida.

Castor is a 24/7 representative, whose effectiveness in Washington is matched by her accessibility back home. Castor often spends her weekends hosting job fairs and other events that highlight the needs of this community. That energy is especially important in this two-county district, which includes Tampa, coastal Hillsborough and much of eastern Pinellas County. Her constituent service is unparalleled and her integrity and demeanor reflect the best of public service.

For U.S. Representative District 14, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Kathy Castor.

District 15: Laurel Lee, Republican

Laurel Lee
Laurel Lee [ handout ]

Republican Laurel Lee and Democrat Alan M. Cohn bring very different life experiences and agendas to this race, and on balance, Lee is the better pick.

Lee, 48, is a former federal prosecutor and Hillsborough County circuit court judge whom Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed secretary of state in 2019. As secretary, she oversaw Florida’s 2020 elections, which was widely hailed as trouble-free, reflecting her work ethic, sense of team play and attention to detail.

Lee’s agenda is decidedly conservative. She supports tax and spending cuts and stronger border enforcement, and opposes new gun safety measures. Lee opposes abortion but supports exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. She also opposes drilling off Florida’s coast, saying the threat unduly endangers the state’s tourist economy.

Cohn, 60, is a media adviser and former broadcast journalist who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2014 and 2020. He wants to curb spending, lower taxes and seek bipartisan agreement on a range of issues, from promoting clean energy to expanding career education. Cohn opposes offshore drilling near Florida and supports expanding background checks for gun purchases. Cohen said his communication skills and knowledge of the political process would make him effective in Congress from Day 1.

Lee, though, has already shown her competence and integrity in a variety of public posts. She is widely praised by local elections supervisors from both political parties for the nonpartisan approach she took as secretary of state in working to ensure orderly elections. She has a good grasp of the three-county district, which includes eastern Hillsborough, western Polk and southeastern Pasco, including Temple Terrace, Plant City, parts of Lakeland and Zephyrhills. She seems smart, sturdy and reasonable, and well-attuned to the varied needs of a diverse district. She has the experience and personality to make Congress more functional and respected.

For U.S. Representative District 15, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Laurel Lee.

District 16: Vern Buchanan, Republican

Vern Buchanan
Vern Buchanan [ U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan ]

Republican Vern Buchanan is too conservative for our taste on many issues, but he can work across partisan lines, and he has built a strong political base. He would be the stronger representative in Washington.

Buchanan, 71, has generally tended to local affairs since first being elected to Congress in 2006. The successful businessman hews to the Republican Party line, but Buchanan has been an important voice for environmental and wildlife protection. That well serves this coastal Manatee County district, which includes the southeastern Hillsborough County communities of Lithia and Sun City Center. Buchanan has also been a strong supporter of free trade, which is important to the region’s ports and airports. He works well with area Democrats in Florida’s congressional delegation on priorities that matter to the Tampa Bay area, such as promoting veterans’ services and protecting the future of Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base.

Democrat Jan Schneider has run six times for this central coast congressional seat, most recently losing a Democratic primary in 2018. A Sarasota attorney who has long been active in environmental and other causes, Schneider, 75, has a progressive agenda, favoring abortion rights, a Medicare-for-all national health insurance program and new gun safety measures, including banning assault weapons and limiting large-capacity magazines.

While her platform is appealing, Schneider’s failure to gain traction over such a protracted period is concerning. Agendas matter, but so does running a competitive campaign. Buchanan is a good fit for much of this district, and his office is regarded for its constituent service.

For U.S. Representative District 16, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Vern Buchanan.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.