5th Congressional District: Whittel wins; to face Brown-Waite
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
Published September 1, 2004
BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County lawyer Robert Whittel bested three other candidates Tuesday to become the Democratic challenger to incumbent U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Crystal River.
"The Democratic base in the district has embraced our mainstream values," said Whittel, 31, who received about 31 percent of the vote in the eight-county district, according to unofficial results.
Whittel won all but Hernando and Sumter counties in the primary and did particularly well in Citrus and Levy counties. His closest rival, John Russell of Dade City, gained about 26 percent of the vote, winning Hernando County.
Brian Moore of Spring Hill won Sumter County, and placed third overall. Rick Penberthy of Wesley Chapel finished fourth.
Whittel said he was pleased to do so well districtwide, particularly in the northern section. He figured his strength there bodes well for the future.
He predicted his decade in the U.S. Naval Reserve will serve him well in the general election.
"The Democratic Party and the voters in general will embrace the idea that we need someone with current military training," he said. "That's what I offer."
Whittel said he will stress the issues of Medicare prescription benefits and veterans affairs in his race against Brown-Waite.
"I think, without question, she is in the far right, and this district demands better," he said.
Brown-Waite, in New York for the Republican National Convention, congratulated Whittel for his primary victory.
She said she planned to "run hard" on her record, which she added included achieving things that had only been promised before.
For instance, she noted, she was able to get expanded veterans clinics in most counties in her district.
"We're not going to do anything different," Brown-Waite said. "We've been working hard for the last year and nine months for the constituents of the 5th District. We've helped thousands of people."
Most congressional election handicappers have said the race is not competitive, and that Brown-Waite is expected to hang on to her seat.