Sharpe Back in Race for Congress

Congressional candidate
Sharpe announces at Buddy Brew coffee shop in Tampa
TAMPA (2011-8-15) -

Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor has gotten her first official challenger. Today, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe announced he'll run for her seat in Congress. And the race may hinge on how the district is redrawn.

Sharpe is no stranger to the District 11 ballot - he's already run three times - unsucessfully. He's been elected to Hillsborough County Commission three times, positioning himself as a moderate Republican who's not afraid to back causes ranging from environmental protection to light rail.

Sharpe says he won't "genuflect" to those on the right wing just to win a primary.

"I'm willing to cast difficult votes - I do it every day, did one earlier today - that could imperil my political career," he says. "I'm willing to work with others, if it's a group of Democrats who think they've got a solution, I'll sit down and listen to them, and I'll work with them."

District 11 was drawn to include as many Democrats as possible, swinging into urban areas of St. Petersburg and Bradenton. But that may change because the "Fair District" amendment passed by voters in November mandates that existing boundaries - such as county lines - be used.

Former county commissioner Chris Hart says that could be in Sharpe's favor.

"You'll see more of a Hillsborough County - Tampa district," Hart says. "You will not see multiple counties with gerrymandered districts. You'll see a more balanced one. And when you make it fair and competitive, people with his conservative views and values win."

Sharpe is the first Republican to run for the office. Bradenton state Sen. Mike Bennett announced earlier he won't join the race to unseat Castor.

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