Jim Lange Archives - Florida Politics

Democrats struggle to fundraise against Dennis Ross for 2018

Democrats in Florida’s 15th Congressional District think Republican Dennis Ross could be vulnerable in his quest for re-election in 2018.

What else can explain why no fewer than six Democrats have already filed to run against the Polk County incumbent next year?

Even with a full year until the midterms, Ross certainly isn’t taking anything for granted, raising more than $136,000 in the third quarter of this year. He now has more than $269,000 cash on hand for his re-election bid.

Meanwhile, Navy veteran and educator Andrew Learned led the fundraising among Democrats over the past three months, bringing in $7,333. He now has $12,861 total cash on hand.

Greg Pilkington, a 54-year-old from Indian Lakes Estates, raised $2,435 over the past three months. He has all of $210 cash on hand.

No other Democrat has done much on the fundraising front. Insurance broker Cameron Magnuson raised just $205 in the third quarter, and has raised a total of $3,297.

Former police officer and criminal investigator Ray Pena Jr. raised just $257 in the third quarter, and shows a negative cash on hand balance of $2,656.

No FECC data was available on the other Democrat in the race, Greg Williams.

Jeffrey Rabinowitz, who originally filed as a non-party-affiliated candidate, then switched to the Democratic primary, is no longer listed as a candidate, according to FEC records.

There is one Republican challenging Ross, Loretta Miller. She raised $1,525 in the past quarter, and has $1,530 cash on hand.

Florida’s CD 15 encompasses parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake Counties.

Last November, Ross defeated Democrat Jim Lange by 16 percentage points.

Cameron Magnuson becomes fourth Democrat to challenge Dennis Ross in CD 15

Dennis Ross has not faced a serious challenge since his election to Florida’s 15th Congressional District in 2010, but several Democrats want a piece of him next year — all of whom filed to run in the district before Ross voted for the American Health Care Act last week.

Four Democrats are already running against the Polk County Republican in CD 15, while a fifth — Navy veteran Andrew Learned, is considering putting his hat into the ring.

One of those candidates who officially filed is 28-year-old insurance broker Cameron Magnuson, raised in Brandon but now lives just outside of Washington D.C. as part of his job with Geico (he’ll return to the Lakeland area by summertime).

Magnuson graduated from USF in 2009 with a degree in Business Marketing Management and earned an MBA in Finance from the Tampa-based university a year ago.

A supporter of a single-payer health care system, Magnuson labels Ross’ vote on the AHCA last week “absolutely the wrong move.”

“I think it’s a shame that we’re heading in this direction, but I am encouraged that even Republicans in Congress are acknowledging that we need to look at covering more people,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “They’re trying to make the argument — they’re absolutely wrong in what they’re saying — but they’re acknowledging now that the conversation is moving in that direction, about how do we cover everybody. Now we can start talking about the solutions that will do that, such as the Medicare for All or a single payer system.”

Last year, Ross defeated Democrat Jim Lange by 16 percentage points, 58 to 42 percent, a race where the GOP incumbent massively outspent him. While Democrat Alan Cohn raised more money in 2014, he lost by a bigger margin to Ross than Lange did.

On world affairs, Magnuson calls the Trump administration’s firing off 59 cruise missiles to attack Syria “a little reckless,” but he’s glad at least to see Trump not taking a ‘hands-off approach” to the vexing issue of what to do in that Middle Eastern nation.

“I very much believe we need to be more involved with Syria, with a humanitarian effort,” Magnuson says, acknowledging he hasn’t seen any such movement.

Magnuson says he’s spoken with local party officials in three counties that CD 15 encompasses — Polk, Hillsborough and Lake, and is scheduled to address the Lake County Democratic Executive Committee Thursday night.

Democrats Gregg Williams, Greg Pilkington and Ray Pena Jr. also filed to run for the CD 15 seat. Stay tuned to this space for upcoming profiles on each of them.

Dennis Ross named to Trump transition team

Lakeland GOP Congressman Dennis Ross, who was re-elected to the House of Representatives for a fourth time earlier this month, has been named to the Donald Trump transition team.

“I am greatly honored to be named to the Trump-Pence Presidential Transition Team,” Ross said in a statement issued Wednesday morning. “The American People spoke on November 8th, and what they said is that they are fed up with the direction our country has taken for the past eight years. My position on this team will be handled with the utmost respect and seriousness it requires because the People’s voice deserves a head seat at this table, which I plan to represent to its fullest. I believe a Trump-Pence Administration will put forth and lead with strong conservative policies that rightfully serve and protect our nation, its people and our freedoms. I am ready to get to work!”

Ross was an enthusiastic supporter of Trump during the campaign, speaking at at least two of his rallies in Florida.

Ross defeated Democrat Jim Lange in Florida’s 15th Congressional District on Nov. 8.



Dennis Ross co-sponsors bill to prohibit ransom payments to Iran

Last month, the Wall Street Journal first reported that the Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran.

The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran over a long-held dispute over a failed arms deal just before the Shah of Iran lost power in 1979.

After that news broke, White House spokesman Josh Earnest rejected suggestions the money transfer to Iran was ransom or a secret.

Two weeks later, however, the State Department confirmed the U.S. conditioned the release of that cash payment to Iran on the departure of American prisoners from Tehran.

The news outraged Republicans, with some calling for a congressional hearing to discuss the matter further.

Now comes legislation co-sponsored by Polk County Republican Dennis Ross that will prohibit further cash payments to the Iranian government.

“I co-sponsored H.R. 5931 because the president must be held accountable for putting American lives and our national security at risk,” Ross said in a statement on Tuesday. “The $400 million cash ransom the Obama Administration easily handed over to Iran is unsettling and calls into question the president’s actions as they pertain to the ‘no concessions’ policy.”

Congressional Republicans never signed on to the landmark nuclear deal that the U.S. made with the P5 +1 group of world powers last fall, and the report about the $400 million cash made public last month has only angered them further.

“The Obama Administration continues to mislead the American people about this horrible deal, while Iran repeatedly violates the deal with no repercussions,” Ross said. “Not only has Iran been permitted to improve its capability of producing enriched uranium, it also has been allowed to develop advanced uranium centrifuges, deny IAEA inspectors access to its facilities, acquire nuclear technology, and deploy an advanced Russian missile defense system to protect its uranium enrichment facility from airstrikes.”

Ross says that this bill, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce of California, ensures a similar transfer of funds to Iran can’t happen again. “H.R. 5931 makes clear the Obama Administration violated longstanding U.S. policy by releasing prisoners and paying ransom for the return of Americans held hostage by Iran, prohibits cash payments to Iran, and demands transparency on future settlements to ensure they are not used to pay ransom.”

The bill has drawn 44 Republican co-sponsors, and will be brought up before the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

The Senate introduced a similar bill under Florida Sen. Marco Rubio that would prohibit the federal government from paying ransom. It would also stop payments to Iran from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund until Iran returns money it received and pays American victims of Iranian terrorism what they are owed.

Ross is running for re-election to his seat in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, running against Democrat Jim Lange.

Dennis Ross returns to Washington after heart surgery rehab

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, who underwent heart surgery Aug. 9, is returning to Washington Monday to resume his congressional work.

“We have votes at 6:30 p.m. (in full session), then it is business as usual Tuesday with a Financial Services Committee meeting,” the Lakeland Republican said.

Ross, who turns 57 Oct. 18, has been recuperating from the surgery in Orlando to repair a heart defect he has had since birth. He missed the first week of Congress’ reconvening after its lengthy Labor Day recess.

While staff members and family described the operation as routine, if left untreated it could have become life threatening in future years.

Ross had said he just needed “a new valve and a little ‘re-piping.” Rehab included a great dealing of walking, he noted.

A senior deputy whip for the Republican majority, he is seeking his fourth two-year term to office Nov. 8 and says he plans to a campaign actively in person in the district on weekends and following the anticipated congressional recess Oct. 1.

Ross represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District, which includes western Polk County, containing 41 percent of the voting population, and eastern Hillsborough County, which makes up 59 percent.

Lutz business consultant and Democrat Jim Lange, 54, is challenging Ross in the general election and has made the rounds to “meet and greets” throughout the district.

Ballotpedia ranks the seat as “safe” for the Republican candidate and the Cook Political Report defines the district and race as “solid Republican.”

Mitch Perry Report for 8.17.16 — Impeachment memories

Before Barack Obama was elected, a lot of political observers said that with such a divided nation, every president could face the potential of being impeached.

I’m reminded of that today on the 18th anniversary of Bill Clinton giving a prime-time address to the nation after seven months of silence on the Monica Lewinsky matter.

“I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife,” he said in a four-minute address. “I deeply regret that.”

“While legally accurate, I did not volunteer information,” Clinton added.

Ah, the ’90s. We all know what happened later that year: the House of Representatives impeached Clinton in December, but he was eventually acquitted by the Senate a couple of months later. It was a wasted year out of everybody’s lives, though Clinton came out of it more popular than ever (thanks to the booming economy) and House Republicans suffered, with Newt Gingrich losing his speakership after the November ’98 elections.

While Clinton has been the only president impeached in recent times, it should be noted Obama will leave his presidency in five months without ever seriously being threatened with the ultimate sanction from Congress.

Going back to the ’80s, there was serious talk that Ronald Reagan could be impeached for the Iran-Contra affair in 1986.

In 1991, on the day the Gulf War broke out, Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Gonzalez introduced a resolution with five impeachment charges against George H.W. Bush.

And there was serious talk — shut down by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — on the idea of impeaching George W. Bush because of the Iraq war.

And do you want make a bet that whether it’s Trump or Hillary in the White House next year, there will be ferocious congressional opposition waiting for a big slip to perhaps make a similar effort.

But with Obama, though he’s angered the political right throughout his 7.5 years in office, there’s never been anyone seriously saying he’s done something worthy of such consideration.

In other news:

Jackie Toledo is going all out in her quest to win the House District 60 GOP primary later this month. A new mailer says she’ll crack down on “illegal aliens,” and says she’d attempt to repeal two recent bills passed by the Legislature, including one that gives in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

CD 15 Democratic hopeful Jim Lange has some language on his website that echoes closely that of progressive icons Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Eric Lynn and Ben Diamond fought yesterday over who dropped the ball in trying to get a debate set up between the two Democrats in their race for the House District 68 campaign. The bottom line? No debates for anyone.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit agency (HART) held a transportation summit in Tampa yesterday.

And the NRA is backing Daniel Webster in his quest to win the Congressional District 11 race.

Some of CD 15 candidate Jim Lange’s website language is very similar to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren

Democrat Jim Lange is in an uphill battle to defeat Republican incumbent Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th Congressional District. Though there hasn’t been much public polling on the race, Ross defeated the last Democrat he faced, Alan Cohn, by nearly 20 percentage points in 2014.

Lange is running as a progressive in the Polk/Hillsborough county-based district, and has been called by some supporters as “in the mold of Bernie Sanders.”

Some of the language on his website also appears to be in the mold — or language of — the Vermont senator, as well as that of Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

On Sanders’ website under the heading of “Improving the Rural Economy,” is a subsection that says “Family Farms instead of Factory Farms.”

It is unacceptable that just four corporations control 82% of the nation’s beef cattle market, 85% of soybean processing, and 63% of pork processing. It is unacceptable that there are over 300,000 fewer farmers than there were 20 years ago. It is unacceptable that the top 10% of farms collect 75% of farm subsidies, while the bottom 62% do not receive any subsidies. We have to adopt policies that will turn this around.

On Lange’s website, under the section called “Improving the Rural Economy,” there is this:

It is unacceptable that the top 10% of farms collect 75% of farm subsidies, while the bottom 62% do not receive any subsidies leaving many of our local farmers out to dry. New policies must be adopted to turn this around.

In that same “Improving the Rural Economy” section on Sanders’ website, there is this:

Senator Sanders will fight for farm policies that will foster the entry of a new generation of owner-operators. He will not back away from land stewardship standards that include the commonwealth of clean water for all.

On Lange’s site there is this:

I will fight for farm policies that will foster the entry of a new generation of owner-operators. I will not back away from land stewardship standards that include the commonwealth of clean water for all. I believe in family farms, and I will do my very best to help them survive and prosper.

On Social Security, this comes from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s website:

Too many have been using scare tactics when it comes to Social Security. The problems in Social Security funding are serious, but they are fixable. Social Security is safe for at least the next 20 years and, if we act quickly, we can make modest changes that will keep the system solvent without cutting back on benefits. We need honesty and political will to move forward. Social Security is a promise made to our seniors and it would be a breach of trust — and just plain poor economic policy — to jeopardize this program with unnecessary cuts or risky privatization schemes.

From Jim Lange’s website:

The issues with Social Security funding are serious, yet fixable. Social Security is safe for at least the next 20 years. I am prepared to take action and make modest changes that will keep the system solvent without cutting back on benefits. One modest change that I would support is raising or even eliminating the Social Security cap on taxable earnings. Of course, any change to the program will require the political will and resolve of both parties. Social Security is a promise made to our seniors. It would be both a breach of trust and poor economic policy to jeopardize this program with unnecessary cuts or risky privatization schemes.

When contacted on Tuesday, Lange wrote to FloridaPolitics in an email that, “My site reflects my philosophy and that of members of my party whom I respect and want to emulate. I will allow you to draw your own conclusion and distribute your opinion to your readers as you see fit. “

The Dennis Ross campaign did not respond to our requests for comment.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.11.16 — Marco Rubio isn’t dominating Patrick Murphy or Alan Grayson in latest Q Senate poll

Before we dig into the new poll on the Florida Senate race, can I reference the lead story in this morning’s Tampa Bay Times? Two men get into a road-rage argument on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Plant City. One guy pulls out a gun and shoots the other dead. He then “cooperates” with the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office, isn’t charged, and is free to go home, where he tells a reporter who confronts him that, “it’s been a very taxing day.”


On to politics. A brand spanking new Quinnipiac poll says Marco Rubio does lead both Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson in a one-on-match this November, but the margins are pretty competitive.

Rubio leads Murphy 48 to 45 percent and leads Grayson by a slightly larger margin, 49 to 43 percent. The key here is that independents are strongly going toward the GOP incumbent.

The same poll shows that in two other fiercely fought Senate races Republican Rob Portman leads Democrat Ted Strickland 49 to 40 percent; and in Pennsylvania, Democratic challenger Katie McGinty leads GOP incumbent Pat Toomey, 47 to 44 percent.

The Democrats need to net four seats to win control of the Senate next year. In Washington, there were great expectations Florida would be a seat they could flip from red to blue, but Rubio’s return has made that much less possible, though as the poll shows, it’s absolutely possible.

In other news …

Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she will debate her Democratic congressional challenger, Tim Canova, this Sunday morning. However, it would only for 15 minutes, and Canova hasn’t agreed to it yet.

Ben Diamond went after Eric Lynn in the fiercely contested House District 68 race, claiming Lynn has failed to offer donors to his aborted congressional campaign a refund. Meanwhile, Lynn attempted to stay above the fray by airing a new television ad touting his support for public education in Florida.

Democratic congressional candidate Jim Lange says he’s trying a different way in try to campaign in his race against GOP incumbent Dennis Ross in the CD 15 race.

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission held their regular monthly meeting yesterday, where they now say their committees are committed to implementing new rules regulating ridesharing companies by October.

St. Petersburg City Councilwoman Darden Rice is backing her former colleague, Wengay Newton, in the competitive House District 70 contest.

CD 15 Democratic candidate Jim Lange finds it rough going in trying to defeat an entrenched incumbent


Lutz business consultant Jim Lange is learning the hard way why incumbent members of the House of Representatives get elected on average more than 96 percent of the time.

The first-time Democratic candidate is challenging three-term incumbent Republican Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, and he’s not doing all that great right now.

“Overwhelmed,” “frustrating,” and “humbling” are some of the words he uses to describe life on the campaign trail as an unknown challenger with limited campaign funds against a well known incumbent.

Three months to go before the general election, Lange is feeling extremely humbled about his prospects. As he began the campaign, he says he thought he could do a “forensic audit” to investigate why two previous Democrats – Lori Edwards in 2010 and Alan Cohn in 2014 – came up short against Ross in the district. He also said he wanted to assess the Democratic Party.

And his verdict?

What he said he found out is that there is no Democratic Party.

“There is a collection of Democrats, and organizations, but as far as an orchestrated institution, I found that what I thought would exist for me, it just doesn’t exist for me, or really for the average candidate,” he said in a phone interview conducted on Tuesday. “There’s no bench. They don’t groom you. A lot of those things have been frustrating to me, and humbling, because I maybe thought more of myself than I should have.”

Lange says his disillusionment with the establishment began at the top, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which he says immediately paid little attention to his candidacy because they didn’t believe he could raise any significant amount of money to pose a threat to Ross.

On that count, that prediction has been accurate. At the end of June, Ross had raised more than $970,000 and had more than half-a-million dollars in cash on hand. Lange has raised just a little more than $14,000, and has less than $2,000 cash on hand.

He’s equally critical of Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ leadership at the DNC, and said that Allison Tant and the Florida Democratic Party isn’t designed to help a federal candidate like himself, “so she becomes a non-entity to me.”

Lange does praise the heads of the local Democratic Executive Committee offices in Polk, Lake and Hillsborough Counties (all of which have a piece of CD 15), but acknowledges the obvious – that they have few financial resources and also aren’t set up to aid federal candidates.

“But they’re good people, they try hard, and I think they have a real desire to improve,” he says.

One person who disagrees with Lange’s attitude is the aforementioned Cohn, who raised nearly $400,000 in his unsuccessful bid to defeat Ross in 2014.

“What we did was hired professional, experienced people. There are systems in place. There are things to do,” Cohn says, adding that he had staff, interns and even his wife spend countless hours researching and contacting potential donors all over Florida. “We worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. We raised a huge amount of money that way.”

Cohn said when he ran in 2014, the district was considered to have only six percent more Republicans than Democrats, meaning if one could get their message out, a Democrat could win. “You don’t win a race by just going to Democratic meetings. You have to reach voters who are not highly identified as being a Republican or Democrat.”

For the past six years, Lange has ran the Haiti Recovery & Development Co., a nonprofit he created shortly after learning about the devastating earthquake there that killed nearly 300,000 people more than six years ago. He says getting involved with Haiti helped get him motivate on global issues, but he always knew that running for any type of political office would be a difficult challenge. He admits to being a bit naive, believing there would be more institutional support. Then again, a quote he said this past winter does look overly optimistic in retrospect.

“I have no illusions that I’m going to be able to match dollar for dollar against an incumbent, a Republican who’s a member of leadership,” he told this reporter in late February. He did predict that once the establishment viewed him as a “legitimate risk” to Ross’ chances for re-election, “this area will flood with money.”

It hasn’t worked like that.

Meanwhile, the only interaction he had with Ross was at a recent “hob nob” in Lakeland, where Lange himself didn’t speak. He’s not optimistic that Ross will deign to offer to debate him (Ross successfully underwent heart surgery this week to correct a birth defect).

Despite his melancholy mien, he says he’s not unhappy with the journey that being a candidate for congress has offered to him.

“I promised you when I started running for office to do the best I could to be an honorable person and be the same person,” he says. “So thankfully, this is an unsual year for politics, and with the down balloting, I have an opportunity to at least be in the equation, nobody knows what’s going to happen here through November.”

Mitch Perry Report for 6.22.16 — TBX showdown tonight

Our latest form of participatory democracy takes place in Tampa tonight, where scores of people will comment on whether or not the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization should include the Tampa Bay Express project in what is known as their Transportation Improvement Plan.

If past is prologue, the majority of speakers will be against the project, and the MPO will go ahead and approve the plan.

That’s what happened 10 months ago on a very similar vote. Only one member of the MPO, Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco, opposed the plan, and 13 supported it. That was despite the fact that two other members of the Tampa City Council, who had voted against the plan while on the council (acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency), approved it on the MPO.

So in analyzing if the votes have changed much over the past 10 months, you need to look at those on the board representing people in Tampa, since opposition is greatest in the neighborhoods that will be directly affected by the construction of the project — in Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights and V.M. Ybor.

Councilman Harry Cohen, perhaps realizing the inconsistency of his vote(s) last year, was the only member of the council recently to resist opposing the TBX in a recent vote. Lisa Montelione (who is running for the state Legislature this year) told me last week she could make a case for and against the project, leaving her vote in question.

County Commission Chair Les Miller has already declared his opposition, saying the Florida Department of Transportation has failed in its outreach efforts with the community over the past year. County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who supported the project last August, could be a no vote this time around. He was seen at an anti-TBX rally in Ybor City a few months ago and is in a tough election battle for Hillsborough Clerk of the Courts.

But the other members of the MPO, who don’t represent Tampa on the board? It’s hard to see how many minds have been changed. The political/business establishment in this town is solidly pro-TBX, and the Tampa Bay Times editorial page weighed in for the project just the other day.

In a move which critics would say is worthy of the best extortionist sports owners, the DOT has threatened to take their billions of dollars earmarked for TBX elsewhere in the state if the MPO rejects the project, further emboldening the business establishment that it would send the wrong signal for the community to oppose it.

The meeting takes place tonight at 6 p.m. at the County Center in downtown Tampa.

In other news …

On the eve of the Hillsborough County MPO’s vote on the Tampa Bay Express Project, a new economic analysis says it would bring nearly 7,000 jobs to the greater Tampa Bay area.

Rick Baker chose not to run against Charlie Crist for Congress in Pinellas County, but he’ll help David Jolly, as he was named Jolly’s campaign manager yesterday.

Kimberly Overman is challenging Les Miller for the Democratic nomination for Hillsborough County District 3.

Alan Grayson will introduce a bill today in the House that would ban assault weapons in America. 

CD 15 Democratic candidate Jim Lange has blasted Dennis Ross for not mentioning the LGBT community in his post-Orlando comments.

Bob Buckhorn slams Donald Trump’s economic policy — at least the part The Donald has announced.

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