Many voters in East Manatee expressed surprise when told that they no longer reside in the 16th Congressional District as a result of reapportionment.
Instead of remaining linked to Bradenton and Sarasota and incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan, East Manatee residents will now be represented by the winner of the newly drawn 17th Congressional District. The sprawling district includes all or portions of 10 counties.
Republican incumbent Tom Rooney of Tequesta, Democratic challenger Will Bronson of Lehigh Acres or Socialist Workers' Party write-in candidate Tom Baumann will represent East Manatee interests in the U.S. House.
All three remain largely unknown among Manatee voters, not all that unusual considering East Manatee only accounts for a sliver of the district's population -- 1 percent. Candidates are focusing their campaigns on the large voting blocs: Charlotte County, with 23 percent of the population; Polk, 18 percent, and Hillsborough, 16 percent.
As a member of the House Agriculture Committee and chair of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, the 41-year-old Rooney sits in a strong position to bolster Florida's farms and ranches and the rural communities in East Manatee. Indeed, the entire district is one of the largest agriculture producing regions in the country, with dairy, citrus, beef, fruit and vegetable farms.
He has a track record of opposing what he describes as "heavy-handed regulation and government overreach onto the farm." Rooney has secured federal funding into canker and greening research as well as other citrus health projects in the state.
Like Buchanan, Rooney promotes jobs legislation aimed at removing government obstacles to job creation, and he supports tax code reform to eliminate loopholes and to produce a fairer, simpler and competitive tax system -- all desirable outcomes.
As a veteran and former constitutional law professor at West Point and as a member of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees, Rooney supports veterans and military issues. Homeland security remains his top priority.
Among the priorities for the 73-year-old Bronson, a retired airline pilot and former Navy aviator, are: removing big money out of elections via public funding and regulating lobbying; rebuilding the middle class through progressive taxation and public sector spending; and protecting Main Street from Wall Street's predatory practices.
More so than Bronson, Rooney has a strong understanding of the district's agricultural foundation. Rooney also has a history of accessibility and constituent service, and we challenge him to display that in East Manatee.
As such, the Herald Editorial Board recommends Tom Rooney to represent the 17th Congressional District.
Candidates who do not receive the Herald Editorial Board's endorsement are invited to submit a response of up to 300 words by 4 p.m. the next weekday after the endorsement appears in print. Those can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 745-7047.
View candidate forums
The Herald, in partnership with Manatee Educational Television, videotaped candidate forums in a variety of key races.
These forums can be viewed on www.bradenton.com on the "Recent Multimedia" page.
METV is also regularly airing all the forums, and the station can be viewed on Brighthouse channel 614, Verizon FIOS 31 and Comcast 19. For METV airtimes, visit www.metvweb.com.