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E.J. Otero says he’s uniquely qualified if he runs for Hillsborough County Commission

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Retired U.S. Air Force Col. E.J. Otero says he is receiving calls nearly everyday from Hillsborough County Republicans who want him to enter the County Commission District 6 seat.

He and says he will make a decision on whether or not he’ll do so “within a reasonable amount of time.”

Otero confirms that there is tremendous unease within GOP circles in Hillsborough about the viability of Jim Norman’s candidacy. The longtime former commissioner officially announced his political comeback last week when he filed to run in the Republican primary election, in which he currently is opposed by Tim Schock and Tom Aviano.

His decision comes three years after he stepped down from running for re-election to his Hillsborough/Pasco County state Senate District, months after he admitted guilt with the Florida Commission on Ethics for failing to disclose information about his wife’s $435,000 Arkansas vacation home.

“I’m getting a tremendous amount of unwarranted (attention) from folks asking me to run,” Otero told SaintPetersBlog on Thursday, where he was attending the opening of Jeb Bush‘s state headquarters for his presidential campaign in Town N’ Country.

Otero previously ran for Congress in 2012, when he lost to Democrat Kathy Castor.

The 54-year-old served for 28 years in the Air Force, retiring with the rank of colonel. He served three tours of duty in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was a senior officer in the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command.

Otero earned a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University with a double major in political science and journalism. He also has a master’s in international relations from Troy University and a master’s in strategic studies from the U.S. Air War College.

This summer he’s been serving on the Hillsborough County Charter Review Board, where he was a proponent of an unsuccessful push to change the configuration of the County Commission.

Otero says it requires a strong vision of the complex issues that the county will be facing in the future, and says “of all the names that have been bantered around, I am very curious about getting in, and looking at it and maybe doing something about it, because I don’t see anybody who has that vision, that understands the nuances of all the communities in the county, not just one or two, but all the communities.”

In addition to the three Republicans in the race, Pat Kemp, Brian Willis and Thomas Scott have announced their candidacies in the Democratic primary for the countywide seat.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at [email protected]

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