Dennis Ross – Florida Politics

Democrats will still campaign against a departing Dennis Ross

Andrew Learned

Most candidates in (or soon to be in) the Democratic primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, left open by the retirement of Lakeland Republican Dennis Ross, will likely agree on many issues, especially over safety nets.

But there will be a crucial difference, said Andrew Learned, a Valrico Democrat seeking the office.

“Veterans and the military lack a voice,” said Learned, an eight-year veteran of the Navy and currently a lieutenant senior grade in the U.S. Navy Reserve unit headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

He said he has had three tours in the Middle East and saw the troubles fellow service members had not only there, but on their return.

“The number of veterans in Congress is one of the lowest since World War II,” Learned said. “There are those who need help from the Veterans Affairs and not getting it and families of deployed military are in need of care.”

Learned, 31, was born in Sarasota and graduated from high school in Fort Myers. He has lived in Hillsborough County for the past several years attending the University of Tampa and is the owner of the Valrico GradePower Learning Center, a franchise which he acquired in 2014.

In 2016, he said, he was activated and deployed for a year as lead surface planer for Task Force 51/Marine brigade in Bahrain.

Learned filed to run for the post last summer. Until last week he had been running against Ross, and it would seem hard to stop even now that the incumbent decided not to seek re-election. It is likely to be the political mantra for the six Democrats still in the race.

Despite Ross’ leaving, Learned said he blames some of the conditions in the district and the nation on Ross’ “ultraconservative” actions, causing any Republican who may win the seat of carrying on the same activities.

“If you were to take back the break given to the trust fund babies (inheritance taxes) you could give an $8,600 to every schoolteacher in the nation. I have railed against Congressman Ross for not being able to move most (original) legislation except maybe renaming the Mulberry Post office. And supporting (the president’s) use of children health care to force a tax cut for millionaires is wrong,” Learned said.

“Facts are facts, and if we pretend they are otherwise, then we are in for worse trouble.”

The remarks are an indication of how this campaign might play out this summer with Democrats aiming for Ross and local issues rather than just President Donald Trump.

“I congratulate the Republicans in office for a cut after taking eight years in control of the House and Senate to finally do something about tax reform,” Learned said, “but to give a kickback to the wealthiest one percent of the population is wrong.”

So far, Learned is competing against James Gregory Pilkington of Indian Lakes Estates, Phil Hornback of Ruskin, Cameron Magnuson of Brandon, Raymond Pena Jr. of Lakeland and Jeffrey Rabinowitz of Clermont.

A sixth Democrat, Greg Williams of Lakeland, pulled out of his yearlong race for the seat last week and endorsed Learned.

Other Democrats could enter the primary for CD 15, but they would face attacks of opportunism from these candidates who were already in the race before Ross left.

Neil Combee makes it official; announces run for Dennis Ross’ seat

Former State Rep. Neil Combee, a Polk City Republican, announced Tuesday that he will seek Florida’s 15th Congressional District seat left open by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

Ross, a Republican from Lakeland, announced last week he will not seek re-election to the post he has held since January 2011.

Combee, 58, made his announcement at noon following his resignation as state executive officer for the Gainesville-based Farm Service Agency, a USDA agency serving Florida and the Virgin Islands and notifying his staff.

He resigned as representative for House District 39 in November when he was appointed to the federal post by President Donald Trump.

“I am a loyal supporter of President Trump and the great strides he has made for this country. While I had to think carefully about resigning my post, I can better help him and his programs by being in Congress,” Combee said.

The Combee family name is well-known in Polk County, which makes up 40 percent of the congressional district, with such names as the historic Combee Settlement neighborhood and Combee Road.

Combee is a farmer, rancher and real estate executive and served 16 years as a Polk County Commissioner. Upon leaving in 2004, his fellow commissioners named the new county administration building for him.

He served on the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District from 2005 until 2012 when he was elected to the Florida House.

Combee said CD 15 is a perfect fit since a large portion is rural and suburban and has a great deal of agriculture.

The district includes Polk County which makes up 40 percent while Hillsborough contains about 50 percent with Lake County making up roughly 10 percent of the district.

Pundits had for a long time before Ross’ announcement had said after him, the district likely would be controlled by Hillsborough voters.

“With Polk and Lake counties this is a 50-50 split, but I also have great history with the eastern part of Hillsborough with friends and associates for a long time,” he said.

Six Democrats have already opened campaigns for the seat before Ross’ announcement of his retirement. Democratic officials say that the district is winnable this year for a Democrat because of the controversies surrounding the very president to whom Combee has pledged his strong support.

But the district in some form has been represented by a Republican since then Rep. Andy Ireland of Winter Haven switched to the Republican Party in 1984.

Polk County Republican Party Chair JC Martin said he has no doubt a Polk County Republican will win the primary and the general election.

“Polk County’s favorite son (Commissioner of Agriculture) Adam Putnam will be on the ballot, and that is worth extra turnout from the Polk County side,” Martin said of Putnam’s run for governor.

Among those prominent Republicans also interested in Ross’ seat includes state Rep. Ross Spano of Dover, who is expected to announce he is switching from campaigning for Florida Attorney General to mount a run for CD 15.

Tuesday afternoon, WMNF radio reported Spano is pulling out of the AG race, and intents to enter the race for Congress. He has not yet officially filed.

Spano was behind the resolution in the last Legislative Session that declared pornography a “public health risk.” The measure recognized the health risk caused by explicit material, and recognized a need for “education, prevention, research and policy change to protect citizens of this state.”

Speculation is that state Sen. Tom Lee of Brandon is studying a run.

Also officially in the race: Loretta Leah Lax Miller of Clermont and Curtis Ralph Rogers of Dover.

Another official in the Polk County Republican Party, family counselor Ed Shoemaker of Lakeland, announced last week that he will run for the seat.

Danny Kushmer, Executive Director of International Responsible Farming Council, headquartered in Hillsborough County, also announced Tuesday that he will run for the seat as a Republican. The council is a not-for-profit corporation to tell the American farmer’s story through certification and participation in best management practices to ensure use of the latest food safety protocols.

Former state Rep. Seth McKeel and state Sen. Kelli Stargel, both Lakeland Republicans, are highly rumored as potential candidates but have said they will not run for the post.

Vern Buchanan

Florida’s congressional Republicans targeted in billboard blitz

A national progressive group announced Monday that 30 congressional Republicans nationwide would wake up to find unflattering billboards in their districts, including four in Florida.

The billboards, part of the “Not One Penny” campaign started last year by Tax March, blast Sarasota U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, Lakeland U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, Panama City U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn and Punta Gorda U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney for the tax breaks they’re set to receive under the plan passed by Congress late last year.

Both Rooney and Ross have announced they will not run for re-election in 2018.

“Congressional Republicans have given themselves tax breaks. This is textbook corruption: lining their pockets while raising taxes on the middle class,” said Not One Penny Spokesperson Tim Hogan.

“They need to be called out for putting themselves ahead of their constituents. Working families deserve better from their elected officials and will hold them accountable for voting to undermine the well-being of families across the nation.”

The billboards, part of a six-figure ad campaign, each list the tax cut a particular Congressman will receive, followed by the query “what did you get?” in all caps. The bottom line of the billboards points readers to RepealTheTrumpTax.org.

The site features an email signup sheet accompanied by the following statement:

“Despite enormous public opposition, Congress passed the GOP tax scam bill, which will raise taxes for 92 million middle-class families, rip health care away from 13 million people, and threaten life-saving programs — all to give tax breaks to millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations.

“WE HAVE TO FIGHT BACK.”

Buchanan is set to save the most of the four Florida targets, with his billboard saying he “voted for the tax law and gave himself up to a $2,131,750 tax break.” That windfall ranks second among the 30 advertisements listed in the Not One Penny release, coming behind only Indiana U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth.

Rooney’s billboard claims his tax break was up to $600,250, while Ross’ shows up to $100,000, and Dunn’s says $19,316.

The release announcing the billboards said the figures were based on a recently released study from the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy group.

Images of the billboards are below.

Neil Combee teases big announcement for Tuesday

Former Republican state Rep. Neil Combee said he’ll make a “big announcement” on Tuesday, likely a run for Congress.

“Stay tuned HIGH NOON tomorrow we make a big announcement! I am forever grateful to the folks in my community, this region and most recently this country as a strong supporter of President [Donald] Trump and his agenda for America,” Combee told Florida Politics in a statement.

“Now, if we’re to keep America great, we need leaders who will stand with the President and his vision for restoring the promise of the American dream. I believe there is a more direct way I can help support the President and his vision and I plan on sharing tomorrow at noon.”

Combee’s “more direct way” is almost certainly a run for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, which is opening up in the fall due to the retirement of U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

Ross is the third Republican member of the Florida delegation to announce his retirement since the 2016 elections. Last year, CD 27 U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced she would retire, and CD 17 U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney made the call in late February.

It’s only been a few months since Combee’s Thanksgiving announcement he would leave the Florida House to take a new job as Florida State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue appointed him to the position.

It’ll be another two weeks before voters decide on his successor, likely Republican Josie Tomkow, in House District 39.

Combee, an Auburndale Republican, hinted at a possible run over the weekend.

“Don’t ever sell your saddle. You never know what tomorrow brings,” he said in a Facebook post. A Republican consultant close to him said that was coded message that he would run for CD 15.

Also on Saturday, Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel took her name out of the running via a tweet announcing she would continue running for re-election in Senate District 22.

Still, Combee could face other primary challengers in for the safe Republican seat, which covers parts of Hillsborough, Lake and Polk counties.

Thonotosassa Republican Sen. Tom Lee was dead set on a run for Chief Financial Officer earlier this year but has since gone radio silent. He’s up for re-election in the Senate, but given his gripes with the chamber and sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis’ high level of support in the CFO race, CD 15 could be the most appealing option.

There’s also a chance Dover Republican Rep. Ross Spano enters the race.

He’s currently at the back of the pack fundraising wise in the four-way primary for Attorney General, and a couple of Republicans have already filed to succeed him in House District 59, and he already endorsed one of them, making a run for re-election to the state House an improbable proposition.

When it comes to name recognition, his odds in CD 15 are much better than in a statewide race for a Cabinet position.

Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin is also in the mix of possible candidates.

Whoever ends up running will need to decide in the next couple weeks — the qualifying period for Congressional seats opens April 30 and ends May 4.

Neil Combee considering bid for Dennis Ross’ seat, Kelli Stargel passes

There’s still a couple weeks left before voters pick Neil Combee’s replacement in the Florida House, but the Auburndale Republican may already be thinking of running for another seat – this time in Congress.

In a cryptic Facebook post, Combee seemed to indicate he’s considering a run to succeed U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th Congressional District. Ross said earlier this week he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2018.

“Don’t ever sell your saddle. You never know what tomorrow brings,” he said in the post.

A Republican consultant close to Combee didn’t need a codebreaker to translate that message – he said it means the former lawmaker is close to declaring for the seat.

Florida Politics is told that Combee will have an announcement Tuesday. Whatever he does, Combee is said to be making sure he doesn’t run afoul of The Hatch Act, a 1939 law that seeks to keep government functions nonpartisan.

CD 15 covers Lake County, northwestern Polk County and Northeastern Hillsborough County. It’s a safe Republican seat, and Ross’ exit has already drawn interest from a handful of elected officials within the district.

Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel was one of the first names mentioned after Ross’ announcement, but she ended the speculation with a Saturday tweet.

Stargel’s decision was probably somewhat tied to keeping Senate District 22 in Republican hands. The seat has a Republican lean, it voted plus-7 for Donald Trump, but without an incumbent Democrats could have a strong shot at a flip.

Thonotosassa Republican Sen. Tom Lee is also possibly considering running for Congress.

Lee is up for re-election in the Senate, but earlier in the year he was clear in saying his sights were on the CFO job. He’s yet to announce his bid for the Cabinet position, leading many to speculate he won’t.

An open Congressional seat could be more appealing anyway, as Lee can avoid what’s sure to be an ugly and expensive Republican Primary against sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis.

Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin is also in the mix of possible candidates.

Whoever ends up running will need to make a decision in the next couple weeks –  the qualifying period for Congressional seats opens April 30 and ends May 4.

Florida’s delegation presses for Kennedy Space Center launch support money for NASA’s next big rocket

Congressional letters signed by a large majority of Florida’s delegation are urging congressional leaders to support full funding not just for NASA’s next spacecraft and rocket but for critical upgrades at Kennedy Space Center to launch them.

The letters to chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees subcommittees overseeing space have drawn signatures of 21 of Florida’s House members and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and also have support of others who couldn’t appropriately sign because they’re on the committees, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The letters focus on the multi-billion dollar projects to build NASA’s big new rocket, the Space Launch System, and the Orion Spacecraft, which are to carry astronauts into deep space. That’s not new. But the letters give equal weight now to urging full funding for the related Kennedy Space Center upgrades, to exploration ground systems, and for a new mobile launcher, huge boons to the space business at Florida’s Space Coast.

A letter sent last month by U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, the Rockledge Republican who sits on the House Space Subcommittee, and co-signed by 10 other members of Florida’s delegation, urges $557 million for the exploration ground systems improvements in the 2019 federal budget, and another $17 million for other construction. It also calls for $150 million in 2019 to build a new mobile launcher that could support the SLS rocket for 40 years, a recent NASA policy direction change from plans now seen as problematic to retrofit the current mobile launcher. The letter also calls for another $2.15 billion for the SLS rocket development, and $1.35 billion for the final Orion crew vehicle development.

The rocket’s debut has been pushed back, but still is possible by the end of 2019, or in early 2020.

Most of the ground systems work has been underway for several years, but risks falling behind without full funding, and that could further delay the first launches of the SLS, even if the rocket and Orion spacecraft are fully developed and ready to go, the letters argue.

“The exploration ground systems are an indispensable part of the infrastructure of space exploration,” Posey’s letter states.

Posey’s letter drew signatures of 11 of Florida’s members of the House: Posey, Gus Bilirakis, Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Ron DeSantis, Neal Dunn, Matt Gaetz, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto, Daniel Webster, and Ted Yoho.

A follow-up letter from Republican U.S. Sen. Brian Babin of Texas, making the same pleas, included 163 members signatures from throughout the country, and drew most of the 11 Florida members who signed Posey’s letter, plus ten more from Florida: Al Lawson, Val Demings, Dennis Ross, Brian Mast, Francis Rooney, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch, Carlos Curbelo, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Three other House members from Florida, Tom Rooney, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are, like Rubio, on the main committee receiving the letters, and so do not sign under Congressional protocol.

Thirty-one senators including Nelson signed the Senate version, sent out Tuesday by Utah Republican Orrin Hatch.

Rubio’s office said he’s supportive, had an active role in pushing for $2.15 billion for the SLS rocket, $1.3 billion for Orion, and will “continue to push for increased funding in order to keep the ground system upgrades on track.”

Dennis Ross to retire in 2018

Congressman Dennis Ross will not seek re-election in 2018.

The Lakeland Republican will not seek another term in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, which covers parts of Central Florida, ending a 16-year career in elective offices.

“But I got up Sunday morning and I’m reading my emails and the news and seeing what I need to do looked outside and said ‘My God, it’s beautiful today,’” Ross told POLITICO. “’I gotta go out there and see that.’ And I thought to myself, it’s time. It’s time. It’s time to move on.”

Ross, 58, was elected to Congress in 2010 after eight years in the Florida Legislature.

He told Florida Politics Wednesday: “It’s time. Cindy [Ross’ wife] and I have talked about this for some time. I planned on ten years, but after eight with both my sons getting married within the year and having accomplished what I had hoped, it’s time,”

Ross, a senior deputy whip in the House, said he plans to work hard to see other goals of the GOP House leadership accomplished before he leaves.

“Polk County has a significant role in this district, and I intend to campaign for my successor,” he added.

He said his decision was a personal one. It comes on the same day Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan announced his decision to retire at the end of the term this year.

Both men cited family as one of the key reasons.

Close supporter Dena DeCamp, president of the Florida Federation of Republican Women was quick to point out that Ross’ retirement had nothing to do with President Donald Trump.

“Dennis kind of hinted to me last year he was thinking about it,” she said. Again, he is not leaving because of Trump.

(In fact, Ross told this reporter in 2016 he had no intention of making it “a lifetime career.”)

DeCamp said she is not worried about Republicans losing the seat.

‘“There are a lot of Democrats running, but that won’t make a difference,” she said. “This is a solid Republican district, and there have always been a lot of Democrats who voted for Dennis.”

But is it still a Polk County seat?

Over the years Ross has been in the seat, the district has changed from the commanding position Polk County voters held in the early years of his congressional terms. His incumbency and voter satisfaction continued to ensure his re-election.

But Polk voters now only make up 40 percent of the district, with the bulk now in eastern Hillsborough and a small amount stretching to Clermont.

“I don’t believe in the Blue Wave,” DeCamp said. “ That was just made up by the media. Dennis has done a great job for us representing the people of this district. He has supported conservative issues, the Second Amendment, and tax cuts.”

Ross said he plans to return to practicing law when his term expires in January. And he said he plans to pursue his passion for promoting civics education in high schools and colleges. He said he is concerned about the lack of teaching on the topic.

“It is so important that kids understand the process and that we are all a part of it,” Ross said.

Ross told POLITICO Florida he doesn’t have a favorite candidate to follow him. Possible successors include state Sen. Kelli Stargel, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd (who, through a spokesperson, said he “will never run for a different public office, and that includes Congress.”) state Rep. Ben Albritton, former state Rep. Neil Combee and state Sen. Tom Lee.

Republican leaders reached Tuesday also mentioned former state Rep. Seth McKeel of Lakeland as a potential candidate from Polk County for the GOP primary in CD 15.

McKeel, 42, was a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives from 2006 to 2014,  and had served on the Lakeland City Commission for six years prior to the Legislature.

He earned the respect of Republican leaders in Polk and Hillsborough counties when he stepped in to heal the rift between University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft and the Hillsborough delegation between Senate Appropriations Chairman JD Alexander, a Lake Wales Republican, and the members of the Polk legislative delegation.

The negotiation gave birth to Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland and the elimination of the USF Lakeland campus.

In making the announcement, Ross joined Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Tom Rooney and Ron DeSantis in deciding against seeking re-election to congressional seats this fall. Like Ross, Ros-Lehtinen and Rooney have not disclosed any other political plans, while DeSantis is running for governor.

Ross was elected to the Florida House in 2000 and served four terms in Tallahassee. Ross’ congressional website recounts how he was stripped of a state House committee chairmanship in 2007 for voting against a bill that made the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. “the largest property insurer in Florida. For voting against his party and with his free-market principles, Dennis was stripped of his chairmanship and many said his career was over.”

Ross won his first congressional election by 7 percentage points over Democrat Lori Edwards, but he never faced a close race in getting re-elected three times.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

CD 15 hopeful Andrew Learned tops Democrats in fundraising

Navy veteran and Valrico-based businessman Andrew Learned is reporting he raised more than $64,000 in 2017 in his bid to win the Democratic nomination for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, and currently has more than $22,000 in cash on hand.

The district is currently held by Republican Dennis Ross, who has held the seat since 2010.

Though Ross’s fourth quarter totals had not registered on the Federal Election Commission’s website as of 6 p.m. Wednesday, he reported having more than $269,000 cash on hand in his last fundraising report in October.

Learned is one of a handful of Democrats seeking to oppose Ross in the fall, but the has raised the most of any would-be challenger so far.

“It is heartening to see so many supporters across the district come together to stand with our shared values,” said Learned campaign manager Rosalind Moffett. “Andrew’s message is one that reminds people what ‘service before self’ looks like.”

Learned stands out among the other Democrats running in that district who have reported their fourth quarter numbers.

Next up is Greg Pilkington, who reports having raised $46,374. However, that includes more than $36,000 in funds that he has lent his campaign.

Cameron Magnuson has raised a total of just $4,507, while Ray Pena Jr. has brought in just $1,712.

Fundraising numbers for Democrats Greg Williams and Jeffrey Rabinowitz were not available on the FEC’s website Wednesday night.

CD 15 encompasses parts of eastern Hillsborough County, much of Polk County, and parts of Lake County.

Personnel note: Veteran staffer Kyle Glenn named Dennis Ross chief of staff

Veteran Washington staffer Kyle Glenn is returning to U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross‘ office to serve as Chief of Staff.

Ross, the Lakeland Republican who serves as Senior Deputy Majority Whip, announced the hire in a statement Tuesday. Glenn was previously Ross’ deputy Chief of Staff and will transition into the new job over the next few weeks.

Although he is a D.C. native, Glenn has served much of his career with Florida lawmakers.

While attending Indiana College, Glenn interned for the House Republican conference for then-Chair Adam Putnam. After graduation, he interned for Republican Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite from Brooksville, for about a year before her retirement.

Glenn then worked two years for Brown-Waite’s replacement, Republican Richard Nugent, before making the move to Ross’ office as Legislative Analyst, and later Legislative Director.

“[What’s] very important to my boss, being from Florida, is flood insurance,” Glenn told the Washington Examiner in 2017 about a big win last year for Ross. “We worked really hard on a flood insurance bill for two Congresses, and it took us almost four years to get a bill passed in the House that would create more of a private flood insurance market. It took us a really long time, but we felt like getting that through the House was a great step. It passed 419-0, and we feel like we have some good momentum to keep that moving this Congress and get something enacted.”

“Kyle’s return to our team will be a boon for the work we do on behalf of Floridians,” Ross said. “With Kyle in this role, we can renew our focus on fighting to reduce the size and scope of the federal government and strengthening our economy.”

In addition to Glenn’s promotion, Timothy Cummings has been named deputy chief of staff, adding to his duties as Legislative Director.

Photo courtesy of the Washington Examiner.

Majority of Florida Delegation demands clarity on White House offshore drilling position

Both of Florida’s U.S. senators and 22 of its House members are in a dither over mixed signals on offshore oil drilling from Washington.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke assured Gov. Rick Scott that Florida was “off the table” earlier this month.

Soon, Zinke’s position was undercut by Ocean Energy Management Acting Director Walter Cruickshank’s telling the House Natural Resources Committee that areas off Florida’s coast are still under consideration.

With inchoate policy guidance from the Executive Branch, Florida legislators demanded answers Wednesday from the Donald Trump administration in a letter.

“In light of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Acting Director Walter Cruickshank’s recent statement before the House Natural Resources Committee that the Planning Areas off Florida’s coasts are still under consideration for offshore drilling, we write to reiterate our strong opposition to any attempt to open up the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling,” the lawmakers wrote. “We object to any efforts to open the eastern Gulf of Mexico to drilling, and we urge you to remove this area from the five-year plan immediately.”

The letter notes that these areas have been off limits since 2006, and that since the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010, local and regional stakeholders and leaders have been adamant in opposition.

The letter also cites the “critical” nature of the Eastern Gulf Test and Training range for training missions for F-22 and F-35 pilots. And on the eastern side, facilities like Patrick Air Force Base, Kennedy Space Center, and the Jacksonville Naval Air Station would be impacted.

Some Florida politicians — notably, Scott — took Zinke at his word, even after the Cruickshank remarks became news.

“Secretary Zinke is a man of his word. He’s a Navy Seal. He promised me that Florida would be off the table, and I believe Florida is off the table,” Scott said.

“Secretary Zinke has made a commitment,” Scott added, “and he’ll live up to his commitments.”

However, Sen. Bill Nelson, who will likely face Scott in his re-election contest this year, called Zinke’s declaration and Scott’s trumpeting thereof a “political stunt.”

Joining Sens. Nelson and Marco Rubio signing the letter: Reps. Stephanie MurphyTed DeutchIleana Ros-LehtinenKathy CastorAlcee HastingsVern BuchananVal DemingsDebbie Wasserman SchultzFrederica WilsonDarren SotoBill PoseyAl LawsonGus BilirakisLois FrankelBrian MastCharlie CristJohn RutherfordRon DeSantisDennis RossFrancis RooneyNeal Dunn, and Matt Gaetz.

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