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Space engineer Jim Kennedy running for Congress vs. incumbent Bill Posey

Florida Today logo Florida Today 7/7/2019 Dave Berman
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Space industry employee Jim Kennedy of Merrrit Island has entered the race for Congress in District 8.

Kennedy, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, who is in his sixth two-year term in Congress.

Kennedy, 44, is an electrical engineer with the space industry giant United Launch Alliance.

This is Kennedy's first run for public office. He said he has been thinking about making this run for awhile before officially becoming a candidate in June.

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"I just watched how inept Congress has become," Kennedy said. "I just got tired of yelling at the TV. I want to get in Congress, and accomplish something. I want to make a difference."

Asked to comment on Kennedy entering the race, Posey said: "I’m focused on being an effective congressman right now. But I look forward to a spirited debate with opponents next year, when the field is set."

More: Bill Posey re-elected over Democrat Sanjay Patel to Florida's 8th congressional district

More: U.S. House candidates Bill Posey, challenger Sanjay Patel trade political jabs

Posey, 71, is a former member of the Florida Senate, the Florida House of Representatives and the Rockledge City Council. 

Kennedy is a Navy veteran, and formerly worked in the utility industry and as a boat designer.

Among Kennedy's initial campaign platforms that he has announced are:

• Supporting a universal health care system.

• Pushing environmental reforms, including requiring industry to adopt environmentally friendly technology and making polluters responsible for cleaning up their to messes.

• Increasing school funding and increasing teacher salaries.

• Protecting the Second Amendment rights for gun owners, with restrictions for felons or people judged to be mentally ill.

• Improving medical, educational and vocational services for veterans.

• Supporting term limits for members of Congress.

In his last election win, in 2018, Posey defeated Democrat Sanjay Patel, receiving 60.5 percent of the vote to Patel's 39.5 percent.

Kennedy says he is more moderate than Patel, which could help in going against  Posey, a conservative, in the relatively conservative District 8.

Data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics shows that Posey spent $1.08 million in the 2018 election, compared with $336,765 for Patel. 

The $1.08 million the most Posey spent on any of his six congressional races, with the least being $764,933 in his 2016 win over Democrat Corry Westbrook and no party affiliation candidate Bill Stinson. 

Kennedy said, while he doesn't like the idea of such a level of spending, "that's the nature of the beast" in modern political.

Kennedy said, if he could match Posey's potential campaign spending of $1 million in the 2020 campaign, he could defeat Posey when voters hear his campaign platforms and see him in one-on-one debates with Posey.

Kennedy concedes the power of incumbency is a hurdle he will have to overcome.

But Kennedy added: "This is not Bill Posey's seat. It is the people of District 8's seat."

Plus, Republicans have an advantage over Democrats in voter registration numbers in House District 8, which includes all of Brevard and Indian River counties and part of eastern Orange County, including Bithlo, Christmas and Wedgefield.

In the 2018 election, for example, there were 234,548 registered Republicans in House District 8, compared with 165,033 registered Democrats, and 147,009 voters with either no party affiliation or who were members of a minor party.

That's one reason Kennedy is starting to campaign early. In his first major campaign event, Kennedy will hold a free campaign kickoff party from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Cocoa Riverfront Park in Cocoa Village, with food, music and activities for children.

Kennedy is using a campaign slogan of "Better Together."

Among Kennedy's campaign team is campaign manager Robert Burns, who ran Kenny Johnson's successful 2018 campaign for Palm Bay City Council, defeating incumbent Tres Holton and Thomas Gaume Jr.

Under Democratic Party rules, the local Democratic committee would not be able to formally back a candidate until it is determined that the candidate either has no opposition in the 2020 primary election or wins a primary if there is opposition.

"They have to stay very open and very neutral," Kennedy said.

Dave Berman is government editor at FLORIDA TODAY.

His Political Spin column appears Sundays in FLORIDA TODAY.

Contact Berman at 321-242-3649

or dberman@floridatoday.com.

Twitter: @bydaveberman

Facebook:  /dave.berman.54

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Space engineer Jim Kennedy running for Congress vs. incumbent Bill Posey

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