Pam Keith has formed an exploratory committee to consider facing Brian Mast in Florida’s 18th Congressional District next year.
Keith, who received over 15 percent of the vote in last summer’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, made the announcement at the Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee meeting Thursday night, just hours after Mast voted with the majority of his fellow Republicans for the American Health Care Act.
“The response has been phenomenal,” Keith said Friday to FloridaPolitics.com. “People love that I am a veteran and feel that this helps to neutralize a lot of what Brian emphasized in his campaign.”
Taking 15.4 percent of the Democratic vote for Senate last year, Keith nearly eclipsed Alan Grayson — a well-known and better-funded candidate — who received only 17.7 percent.
Mast’s predecessor, former Congressman Patrick Murphy, won the Democratic nomination in August before losing to Marco Rubio in the general election.
Keith wanted to wait longer before making the announcement, but said Mast’s vote in support of the AHCA “really pushed me to get out there and test the waters.”
A former Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy, Keith made her first run for public office with a 2016 Senate bid.
After Mast voted Thursday for the AHCA, the Palm City Republican immediately came under fire from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“Make no mistake about it: Mast must face the music, look his constituents in the eye, and answer for the mess they created,” said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Lujan, a congressman from New Mexico. “There is no question that this bill will cause incredible pain for hardworking Americans, particularly those fighting to make ends meet, and this vote will haunt Mast through Election Day.”
Speaking on the House floor, Mast said Thursday that he has a pre-existing condition — he lost his legs in a bomb attack while serving the U.S. Army in Afghanistan — adding he was the “staunchest advocate for people out there that have pre-existing conditions.”
Keith believes her politics line up “very well” in the swing district, where “people know how much I am willing to work hard on the ground for each vote.”