March 4, 2009

A competitive race with well-known candidates and possible primaries on both sides is developing for the U.S. House seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Adam Putnamof Bartow.

The district, which crosses from Polk County into Hillsborough, has long been a Republican bastion, but it’s one Democrats think they can win.

They got some encouragement Tuesday when Lori Edwards of Winter Haven, the county elections supervisor, announced she’ll run.

Some Democrats have been hoping she would take on Republican former state House member Dennis Ross of Lakeland, who announced last week.

But both may have primary competitors.

State Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, is considering and will decide after the state legislative session ends May 1.

And Democrat Doug Tudor of Riverview, who ran against Putnam in 2008, said Tuesday he’ll run again.

Edwards appears to be the Democrat Republicans are most worried about.

“She’ll be a tough candidate,” former Polk County Republican Party Chairman Eric Allen said. “It’s likely to be the toughest, closest race we’ve seen in Polk in maybe 10 years.”

Putnam will leave the 12th Congressional District seat he’s held since 2000 next year to run for agriculture commissioner.

The district is widely thought of as a Republican seat. It includes most of Polk County; parts of eastern and southern Hillsborough; and a small slice of Osceola.

George Bush won in the district in 2000 and 2004. But John McCain narrowly beat Barack Obama there in 2008.

“The 12th District is a solid Republican seat that will continue to elect candidates like Adam Putnam,” said Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee…

… Ross, 49, a lawyer, served in the state House from 2000-2008. His announcement included endorsements from big-name Republicans including former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Dockery, 47, said she has been urged to run, “But to say I’m interested may be an overstatement. My response is I’ll give it some thought, but I’m busy right now.”

Tudor, 46, a retired Navy master chief petty officer who now works for a defense contractor, lost to Putnam by 58-42 percent.

Former state Sen. Rick Dantzler, a subject of speculation about whether he’ll enter the race, said Tuesday it’s very unlikely.

Click here to read the full story.