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Wednesday, Aug 16, 2017
Local News

MacDill, port key issues in U.S. House race

TAMPA - Age: 51 Family: Married with one child. City of residence: Tampa Education: Double major from Iowa State University in political science and journalism; master's degree in international relations from Troy University, and master's degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Air War College.
Professional experience: Retired in 2010 after 28 years in the military, the last 14 in Tampa at both U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command. Three tours of duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom; was assigned to Qatar to co-lead building Centcom's headquarters; and assigned to Socom, where he led negotiations with future Special Operations partners. Political experience: 2012 Republican primary for the 14th Congressional District seat. Age: 46 Family: Married with two daughters. Education: Bachelor's degree in political science from Emory University, law degree from Florida State University. Professional experience: Assistant general counsel to the Florida Department of Community Affairs. Political experience: Hillsborough county commissioner from 2002 to 2006; elected in 2006 to the U.S. House of Representatives, re-elected in 2008 and 2010. With unemployment hovering near 9 percent in the Tampa area, the future of MacDill Air Force Base and The Port of Tampa have become key issues in the race for the 14th Congressional District. Democratic incumbent Kathy Castor and Republican challenger Evelio "E.J." Otero Jr. agree the base and the port are key economic engines for the district but differ on who would be more effective in keeping those engines humming. Castor, 46, says that during her three terms she has helped keep jobs at and connected to MacDill despite the end of the war in Iraq and the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, and that she has helped keep the port vibrant. Otero, a retired Air Force colonel making his first run for public office, says Castor has missed opportunities to increase traffic at the port and has not done enough to ensure MacDill survives as the Pentagon slashes nearly half a trillion dollars during the next 10 years. Castor, by her own words, ran for Congress "originally to end the war in Iraq." Since taking office, while voting consistently against supplemental budgets to fund the wars, she has helped bring back military money to the district. Castor said she has worked to include tens of millions of dollars in congressional spending measures - for base construction and to keep the fleet of P-3 hurricane hunter planes flying out of MacDill for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency. Castor has also led bipartisan efforts to lobby the Air Force to make MacDill home to one of the first wave of KC-46 aerial refueling jets being rolled out to replace the aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers, of which there are 16 at MacDill. "It is very important for this community over the coming decade to ensure that the air mobility mission at MacDill remains," Castor said. Otero, 51, retired in 2010 after 28 years in the military, the last 14 in Tampa at both U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command. He was assigned to Qatar to co-lead building Centcom's headquarters, according to his campaign Web site, had three tours of duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and was assigned to Socom, where he led negotiations with future Special Operations partners. Otero said his experience gives him an edge in lobbying for MacDill and all that takes place there. "I built the international engagement program, looking for partnerships around the world, identifying relationships with countries that have a desire for special operations forces," Otero said. "We need someone who understands the military vision." Castor and Otero also tangle on trade with Latin America and travel there. Castor was involved in a White House initiative that ultimately allowed Tampa International Airport to handle U.S.-Cuba charter flights, restoring Tampa-Cuba flights for the first time in nearly 50 years. "I am very proud of what we have done for the families so they don't have to bear the expense and inconvenience of going through Miami," Castor said. Castor said that "we have more shipyard investment dollars than just about any port in the country" at $12.6 million, including the only grant in Florida during the last round of competition, according to her campaign. Otero, however, chided Castor for not going on any trade missions to Latin America and not doing enough to help open up direct travel routes there from Tampa International Airport. "Colombia has expressed a tremendous desire to buy American goods to drill for oil," said Otero, offering an example of his concerns. "That has not been aggressively pursued. If that were to happen, we could have weekly shipments out of the Port of Tampa for years to come." Otero also criticizes Castor for not participating in as many community forums and events as he has and says she has been ducking a debate with him. "We have not debated," Otero said. "Both of us have been asked by the Tiger Bay Club and the Pinellas Chamber of Commerce. She never attended any event that I have been to." Castor said she had a conflict on the date of the Tiger Bay event involving "gang violence in minority neighborhoods." Her campaign said Castor "religiously attended the televised League of Women Voters debate and the televised WEDU debate in past years. Unfortunately, the League of Women Voters (is) not hosting a debate this year and WEDU recently canceled." When it comes to campaign contributions, the race is not close. Castor, who has been raising money since 2010, enjoys an 8-1 edge in fundraising, bringing in more than $800,000, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission filings.

haltman@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7629
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