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Democrat Craft announces challenge of U.S. Rep. Rooney

by George Bennett | August 5th, 2009

Democratic St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Craft this afternoon announced he’s running for the congressional seat of freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney of Tequesta.

Craft’s announcement, rumored for months, came a day sooner than he planned.

A press release scheduled for release Thursday was briefly posted on Craft’s old commission reelection Web site today, then taken down. The National Republican Congressional Committee saw the announcement and a spokesman branded Craft “a job-killing army of one” before the candidate himself had even gone public.

ā€œIā€™m running for Congress because we need a representative who has shared the struggles of hardworking Floridians and can relate to the people of this district,ā€ said Craft, who pledged to work with Republicans and Democrats as a “moderate voice” in Washington.

Craft, 36, was recruited by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after the party failed to woo state Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, to challenge Rooney. Aronberg instead launched a bid for attorney general in June.

Although Democrats haven’t had a candidate, the party has been targeting Rooney since he took office in January, slamming him in radio ads and automated phone calls for opposing the $787 billion stimulus bill and casting other votes at odds with President Obama and the Democratic congressional majority.

Rooney spokesman Jeff Ostermayer offered a muted reaction.

“Congressman Rooney is completely focused on serving the constituents of District 16….The 2010 election is the farthest thing from his mind.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s Andy Sere was less restrained.

Sere uncorked the “job-killing army of one” remark while blaming Craft, one of five St. Lucie County commissioners, for the county’s soaring unemployment rate.

Congressional District 16 extends from northern Palm Beach County to Charlotte County on Florida’s west coast and includes voters from eight counties.

The district’s voter registration is roughly 41 percent Republican and 38 percent Democratic. Republican John McCain got about 52 percent of the District 16 vote in the 2008 presidential election.

Rooney, 38, an attorney and former U.S. Army captain, won the seat by defeating scandal-tainted Democratic incumbent Tim Mahoney in November with 60.1 percent of the vote. He raised about $1.7 million for that campaign. Through June 30, Rooney had raised $353,357 for his 2010 reelection bid and his campaign had $249,659 in cash on hand.

Craft is a former Coca Cola sales market manager who was elected to the St. Lucie County commission in 2004 and reelected last year. St. Lucie County voters are the largest chunk of District 16, comprising more than 27 percent of the electorate.

While influential Democrats have pegged Craft as a rising star in the party, he acknowledged in May that he wasn’t the Democrats’ first choice for the congressional race.

“I know that they’re still working on Aronberg….Dave is my first choice,” Craft said after meeting with a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee representative in May.

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5 Responses to “Democrat Craft announces challenge of U.S. Rep. Rooney”

  1. DON CORLEONE Says:

    Didn’t the unemployment rate soar from around 5% to over 15% during Craft’s incumbency ….???????

  2. Post On Politics » Blog Archive » Post on Politics - Says:

    [...] Across Florida What’s happening on other political blogs? « Democrat Craft announces challenge of U.S. Rep. Rooney [...]

  3. Steelers scion has race - Early Returns - post-gazette.com Says:

    [...] U.S. Rep Tom Rooney has a Democratic opponent down in Florida — a county commissioner named Chris Craft. From the Palm Beach Post: [...]

  4. pete Says:

    Throw all the bums out!!
    Florida Unemployment Meltdown map:
    http://www.localetrends.com/st/fl_florida_home.php?MAP_TYPE=curr_ue

  5. Post On Politics » Blog Archive » Post on Politics - Says:

    [...] CraftStriking a similarly cautious tone is Democrat Chris Craft, the St. Lucie County commissioner drafted by national Dems to try to unseat freshman U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, in Republican-leaning congressional District [...]

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