Kathy Castor backs Charlie Justice as he faces stiff opposition in re-election bid
Image via Charlie Justice

Charlie Justice 2023
Castor called Justice a 'reliable, committed, and principled partner' who has demonstrated 'a commitment to the people of the Tampa Bay area by ensuring that every neighbor in every neighborhood is heard and valued.'

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is lending her name recognition to Charlie Justice as he seeks re-election to the Pinellas County Commission amid coordinated push by the GOP to further grow its power on the dais.

Castor and Justice are both Democrats, meaning the endorsement is not much of a surprise. But Castor’s name is, if not revered, at least well known in the Tampa Bay area, not just among Democrats.

“Congresswoman Castor is a tremendous public servant for our community who has done the hard work to deliver real results in securing federal resources for local priorities,” Justice said.

He’s facing opposition from Vince Nowicki, a government watchdog who has made a name for himself in St. Petersburg where he worked to uncover a residency issue with a City Council member who, as a result, resigned from her position. Nowicki has so far outraised the incumbent, with more than $42,000 to Justice’s just over $23,000, though Nowicki has been a declared candidate longer than Justice.

Castor’s support will likely help Justice continue his own fundraising momentum ahead of the November election.

In her endorsement, Castor called Justice a “reliable, committed, and principled partner” who has demonstrated “a commitment to the people of the Tampa Bay area by ensuring that every neighbor in every neighborhood is heard and valued.”

Castor said she looks forward to working with Justice on “housing affordability, employment stability, sustainability and resilience, and accessible health care for all.”

Justice’s District 3 includes parts of west St. Pete and Lealman, though the seat is elected countywide.

The race is likely to be competitive. Republicans now hold a nearly 20,000 voter advantage in Pinellas County, with 245,003 voters to just 226,063 Democrats. That’s a sizable lead, especially considering Republicans historically turn out in greater numbers than Democrats. It also means no-party or third-party voters will play a big role in election outcomes next year. There are nearly 193,000 voters not affiliated with a major party.

Democrats lost ground on the County Commission in the 2022 cycle, with Pat Gerard losing her seat and Republicans claiming a 4-3 advantage. They are now looking to expand that advantage, with Republicans running against Justice and in the open race for countywide District 1, which Democrat Janet Long is vacating.

It’s widely believed that if the GOP picks up either seat it will be next to impossible for Democrats to win back their advantage in less than 10 years. If they manage to keep both seats blue, party operatives are hopeful the pendulum will swing back in Democrats’ favor within the next two or three election cycles.

Justice narrowly held onto his seat the last time he was up for re-election, with barely more than 50% of the vote against GOP challenger Tammy Sue Vasquez.

Justice’s campaign touts his work protecting beaches and local estuaries, as well as preserving green space, investing in infrastructure, and making public safety a priority. He said there has been a 59% decline in serious crime countywide.

“We’ve rejected the partisan extremism like we see in Washington and Tallahassee that just stands in the way of getting things done. Due to strong leadership, we are seeing improvements made in every corner of Pinellas from Tarpon Springs to Tierra Verde,” Justice said when he announced his re-election bid in October.

Castor’s endorsement follows nods from St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch, a former colleague on the Commission, and former St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


One comment

  • Don No

    April 4, 2024 at 10:33 am

    “20,000 voter registration advantage” Don’t know where you get your numbers but the Supervisor of Election’s office has it about 33.000 Republican advantage. Charlie needs to go lock up his next job while he can.

    Reply

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