A nonpartisan report says challengers pose no threat to Brooksville's Republican representative in Congress.
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
Published May 8, 2004
Four Democrats have qualified for the chance to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, in November.
But at least one election handicapper, who called Brown-Waite vulnerable just days after her 2002 election, is giving none of the challengers a real chance of success.
The problem, said Nathan Gonzales of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, is the lack of a well-known, high-caliber challenger to surface after Karen Thurman announced she would not fight to regain the seat she lost to Brown-Waite. Thurman, D-Dunnellon, lost by 4,235 votes two years ago.
Neither gained 50 percent of the ballots cast.
"The Democrats have been unsuccessful in getting that piece of the equation," Gonzales said.
In its March election review, the Rothenberg report rated Brown-Waite as "safe" in her re-election bid.
A national Democrat strategist said the party tried to recruit candidates for Florida's 5th Congressional District, which includes part or all of Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties. It decided to focus its time and money elsewhere, though, after evaluating the aspirants who came forward.
The hopefuls are Spring Hill activist Brian Moore, Largo High School teacher Rick Penberthy of Wesley Chapel, registered nurse John Russell of Dade City and Brooksville lawyer Robert Whittel.
Among them, only Moore has run for office before. He gained 2 percent of the vote in 2002 while seeking the House seat as an independent. He also had several failed bids for Washington, D.C., mayor and city council.
Russell was a Republican until 2001, and Whittel was a Republican until March.
Moore and Russell collected petition signatures to gain a spot on the Aug. 31 primary ballot. Penberthy and Whittel paid the $9,282 filing fee.
The deadline to qualify was noon Friday.
David Werder, who gained 53 votes as a write-in candidate in 2002, filed as a write-in again this year. Citrus County political activist Cynthia Cino, who had announced her intent to run, did not follow through.
No Republicans will challenge Brown-Waite in the primary. Brown-Waite had $526,593 in her campaign account at the end of March.
Brown-Waite spokesman Bob Honold said he was not surprised by the independent evaluations of the race, as he had been hearing much the same on Capitol Hill.
"She's looking at going into her sophomore term, having taken a seat from a 10-year incumbent who was on Ways and Means (Committee) and done a great job" for her constituents, Honold said. "She's really started to define herself for her tenure here in Congress."