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Otero qualifies by petition against Castor

Posted May 2, 2012 by William March

Updated May 2, 2012 at 05:50 PM

Republican Evelio “EJ” Otero, an Air Force retiree and former official of U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command, has qualified by petition to run against Democratic U.S. House member Kathy Castor of Tampa.

Otero said he obtained more than 2,300 signatures of voters in the Tampa-based 11th congressional district, with 2,298 required.

Otero, who has never sought public office before, is taking on a difficult task in the heavily Democratic district. Republican County Commissioner Mark Sharpe began a campaign last year with strong support from local Republicans, but backed out, citing the long odds against a Republican winning.

According to his bio, Otero was born in Puerto Rico to parents prominent in the broadcasting industry.

He served 28 years in the Air Force, including 14 in the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command, both based at MacDill Air Force Base. He was involved in international relations for SOCOM.

He retired in 2010 and has since worked as a Spanish-language broadcast political commentator and an international trade consultant, he said.

Otero said he believes his military experience and connection with minority voters will help overcome Castor’s political advantages.

“If the city is to be a true international city, it has to be somebody with a clear vision of how to achieve that,” he said in an interview. “Tampa needs a congressman that understands the international flavor of the city, that understands the military flavor of the city, and that understands all the demographics of the city.”

“The champions of MacDill have always been (Reps.) Bill Young and Gus Bilirakis,” he said. “The champion needs to be the Tampa congressman.”

Otero, who lives near downtown, is single and engaged to be married in July to a Colombian businesswoman he met while working overseas for the military, he said.

One other Republican has filed to run in the district, Josh Kiernan. According to state Division of Elections records, he lives in Palm Harbor, outside the district.

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