Most of Southwest Florida’s state and federal political districts sit in heavily-Republican areas. Coupled with the fact that this is a midterm election, a lot of seats are not being contested this November. But there are a few and Republican Congressman Tom Rooney’s seat is one of them.
Democratic candidate William Bronson is running for Florida’s 17th congressional district against incumbent Republican Tom Rooney.
He said he’s running because he wants voters to have options.
“Had I not run, there wouldn’t have been a choice,” Bronson said. “Tom Rooney in 2012 had no opposition until I got in the race. We ran and got 41.5 percent of the vote. So, I feel the same thing occurred this year had I not been a candidate.”
Bronson, who lives in Lehigh Acres, said he understands why other Democrats don’t jump in this race.
The district, which includes parts of Lee, Charlotte and Glades Counties, as well as parts of central Florida north and west of Lake Okeechobee, is safe Republican ground. Rooney, an incumbent, also has a sizeable warchest.
According to the Lakeland Ledger, Rooney has about $900,000 in his campaign coffers, while Bronson has collected about $15,000 from 11 donors.
Even Rooney, R-Okeechobee, said it’s a good thing a Democratic candidate is running.
He said it’s not good for him either if there’s no contest. He says that leaves his name off the ballot, which could create a name recognition issue for the next election. Also, he said voters get really frustrated with the process when they see incumbents ushered back into office without a fight.
“There should be options and if people are unhappy—if you look at my Facebook certainly there are people that aren’t thrilled about some of the things that I do—you know, they will have an option,” Rooney said.
Rooney said he’s looking forward to continuing his work in Congress. Because of gridlock and election year politics, lawmakers got almost nothing done. But Rooney says he was happy he was able to get funding for citrus growers battling greening passed.
“It was a do-nothing congress for sure and the fact that we got a farm bill through with some significant funding for citrus greening means a heck of a lot for my district,” Rooney said.
Moving forward though, Rooney said how much gets done in the coming years depends on who gets elected. Namely, Rooney said Congress will be more effective if Republicans win the Senate. He said right now two parties controlling two different chambers has been the source of gridlock.
His opponent disagrees, though. Bronson said Rooney and other conservative members of Congress are the reason. He said Rooney and other Republicans should be working with members of the other party. He said they shouldn’t wait for complete control of Congress to do their job.
“Until we get a change of complexion in the Congress I don’t think you are going to see much change and I think that the Tea Party has worn out their welcome so to speak by shutting down the government and being so unwilling to work across the aisle,” Bronson said.
Bronson said he’d like to take on a lot of issues, if elected. He’s interested in election reform and closing loopholes for corporate tax dodgers, among other things. But mostly, he said he just wants to make sure an average person is making their member of Congress fight for their seat in office.