Monday, November 5, 2012

E.J. Otero — the forgotten congressional candidate

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 5:22 PM

E.J.Otero.jpg
Two years ago, the Tea Party rebellion that went from coast to coast animated Tampa Bay area Republicans, with several of them engaging in a spirited primary election to take on Democratic incumbent Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

However, Castor swatted away those conservative fantasies by vanquishing the survivor of that GOP primary in 2010, Mike Prendergast.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe was a GOP primary candidate in 2012 set to face Castor, but he later dropped out of the race when he realized fundraising was a major chore against the incumbent in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.

So who is this year's sacrificial lamb GOP opponent? It's E.J. Otero, a retired Air Force Colonel who had tours of duty supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Otero hasn't received much support from the Republican Party of Florida, but he was allowed to speak briefly at the GOP get-out-the-vote rally in the tight confines of La Segunda Bakery in Ybor City, which featured a host of Republican officials, including former Gov. Jeb Bush.

In his brief remarks, Otero said it's tragic that there's so much unemployment amongst African-Americans in Hillsborough County, not something you always hear at a GOP rally.

"Tampa is one of the most financially distressed economies in the country, and it shouldn't be," he told those assembled to hear Bush, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, and Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam. "There has been total lack of control, a total lack of oversight of what's going on in this city ... There has been a total irresponsibility of (caring about) our minorities in this city. Because we can look all day long. Some of the political leaders from the Democratic party are saying 'the country's doing really well.' We have 7.8 percent unemployment. Yet, in Tampa, right where we are right now, towards the Port facility, we have anywhere between 17-20 percent unemployment in the African-American community. They have not been paid attention to. In the Hispanic community, they are suffering more than 15 percent unemployment. A lot higher than the national average!"

Later he discusses how Tampa received $70 million from the 2009 stimulus bill, but the (predominantly black) East Tampa received only $19,000.

"That's sad," Otero said mournfully.

Not surprisingly, Castor declined to indulge Otero in even one debate, something that seems to be bipartisan in nature amongst incumbents. GOP Congress members Bill Young and Gus Bilirakis have similarly showed such disdain for their opponents. Otero said there have been ten forums that he's attended that Castor has declined to appear in.

Otero didn't dwell on that slight. Instead, he criticized Castor for not being more engaged in Latin America, mentioning its importance to both the bay area and U.S. economy.

"We know that her vision for Latin America is very limited," he said.

He also bemoaned the fact that there are no direct flights from Tampa into Mexico, or most places in Latin America.

"So if you're an investor in Latin America, it makes it very difficult," he said.

Half-Cuban himself, he said he wasn't upset about the direct flights that have taken place throughout the past year from Tampa International into Havana, but he turned the conversation back to working with Latin America, which he said is the future.

CL asked Otero if he would run for Congress again. He said he wasn't sure, but that he wants to be more involved in the community, emphasizing that he wants to help out all the people, not just Republicans or Democrats.

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