Kathy Castor will be one of the congressional representatives who will be impacted by redistricting and this could lead to a rematch with her toughest challenger in recent elections.
The Tampa Bay Times reported Mike Prendergast is open to running against Castor again, especially if the district becomes more competitive after redistricting. Prendergast is easily the biggest threat Castor has faced from the Republicans, though that doesn’t say much since she routinely ran over Eddie Addams and E.J. Otero. It’s telling that Republicans didn’t even bother to run a candidate against her last year. Prendergast ran against her in 2010 when the tea party movement led to Republican victories in Florida and across the nation -- but he still lost by 19 percent and barely mustered 40 percent of the vote.
Since then, Prendergast has cast a larger figure in Tallahassee than he has in Tampa. After winning the governorship in 2010, Rick Scott surprisingly picked Prendergast, a career Army officer, as his chief of staff.
As a fellow outsider to Tallahassee, Prendergast didn’t help Scott as chief of staff. Scott turned to other advisers on important issues like crafting his first budget. Not even six months after starting his duties, Prendergast was out, reassigned to lead the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
For the most part, Prendergast has kept a low profile at VA but there have been the occasional problems. Prendergast came off as toady when the first class of the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame included Scott, then Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and too many other politicians who had served in the military. Scott wisely scratched the idea but it didn’t reflect well on Prendergast who appeared to be trying to regain favor after being thrown out of the governor’s inner circle.
Prendergast does have some strengths on the campaign trail, including being a sharp speaker who is able to present policy in understandable terms. When it comes to national security, defense and international issues, Prendergast is an expert. After his time in Tallahassee, he should be able to raise more funds than he did back in 2010. While much depends on how redistricting goes, Prendergast should be a better candidate next year than he was last time out, though 2016 doesn’t appear to be shaping up as a Republican wave year like 2010 was.
Even with redistricting in play, Castor will be no easy target for the Republicans. Turning 49 next month, Castor is still rising up the Democratic ladder. She’s been winning elections in Tampa Bay since 2002 and is being talked up as a candidate for statewide office in the future. Even if she chooses to remain in Congress, Castor is moving up the Democratic ranks on the Budget Committee.
Prendergast might offer the Republicans their best chance of beating Castor in 2016 but he will find the Democrat tough to topple, even with his Tallahassee connections.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.