neil combee – Florida Politics
Ross Spano

Ross Spano picks up Marco Rubio, Pam Bondi endorsements in CD 15

Republican state Rep. Ross Spano of Tampa received what could be a major boost Thursday in his six-way Republican Primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District with an endorsement by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Earlier, Spano’s campaign released a poll showing he was 12 points ahead of his closest competitor, former state Rep. Neil Combee of Polk City. But with six Republicans running for their Party’s nod to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland, someone could when with only 25 percent of the vote, making the race still a tossup.

The Rubio endorsement could be an aid in getting higher than that 25 percent.

“It is certainly an honor and I think it validates the very hard work done by our grassroots organizing,“ Spano said. “I am more energized than ever after this.”

Rubio said Spano has a proven history of advancing conservative values and his credentials as a member of the Florida House.

Spano also has picked up the endorsement from Attorney General Pam Bondi as well as three Polk County Commissioners, in part because of what they called Combee’s meddling in the election to choose his successor to his House seat.

CD 15 includes portions of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties. The winner of the Aug. 28 primary will face the winner of the three-way Democratic primary in the general election.

Ross Spano

Ross Spano leads Republican field in CD 15, poll shows

Republican state Rep. Ross Spano has a double-digit lead in the race for Florida’s 15th Congressional District according to a fresh poll of primary voters in the tri-county district.

The St. Pete Polls survey found Spano with 31.6 percent support among CD 15 Republicans, 12 points ahead of former GOP Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee.

The race is far from over, however, with “undecided” being the choice of 37.4 percent of voters seven weeks out from the Aug. 28 primary.

Still, the new poll is a shift from late May, when the same pollster found Spano, of Dover, with 29-23 percent over Combee. That lead fell within the margin of error. The new one does not.

Spano and Combee have been considered the leading candidates on the Republican side since the field settled in the wake of current U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross’ mid-April announcement that he wouldn’t seek another term. That preliminary status had a lot to do with the geographic makeup of CD 15.

About half of CD 15 Republicans live in northeastern Hillsborough County, and Spano represents much of that area in the state House.

Another 40 percent live in northern Polk County, which Combee represented for five years before resigning in November to accept a presidential appointment with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He is also a former Polk County Commissioner.

The remaining 10 percent of CD 15 Republicans live in southern Lake County.

Also running in the primary race are Lakeland contractor Sean Harper, Brandon agribusinessman Danny Kushmer and Lakeland mental health practitioner Ed Shoemaker in the primary race.

Shoemaker was the No. 3 candidate in the poll with 4.2 percent support, followed by Harper with 3 percent and Kushmer with 2.3 percent. Another 2.1 percent of Republican voters said they were supporting Curt Rogers, who did not qualify for the ballot.

Though he polled in last place, Kushmer has surged on the endorsement front this week, nabbing support from Bartow Commissioner James Clements and staunchly pro-life group Florida Right to Life. And he tacked on another endorsement, this time from Lake Wales Mayor Eugene Fultz, as the CD 15 poll was released.

“Danny, I have worked with you long enough to know that you are a man of integrity. I believe that you will represent the 15th District well. You have my support,” the Polk County pol said in a news release.

Whoever emerges from the Republican primary will go up against the winner of the Democratic primary contest between Kristen Carlson, Andrew Learned and Ray Pena. The district is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

Also included in the poll was a measure of how CD 15 Republicans view President Donald Trump, and a commanding 89.5 percent said they approved of the controversial commander-in-chief. Only 4.5 percent dissented, while 6 percent were on the fence.

The St. Pete Polls surveyed voters July 8 using an automated phone call polling system. Results were weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and the demographics of the active Republican primary voter population in CD 15.

The poll had a sample size of 532 Republican voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Danny Kushmer

Danny Kushmer adds endorsements for CD 15 bid

Republican Danny Kushmer picked up two endorsements on Friday for his bid to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

The first came in from Bartow Commissioner James Clements.

“When endorsing someone, you want a person you believe in and their ideas and their solutions align with yours. I’ve known Danny Kushmer for over 12 years now and I believe in his abilities to set Washington DC straight,” he said.

Clements’ joins fellow Bartow Commissioner Trish Pfeiffer in backing Kushmer. The Polk County support is a major coup for South Hillsborough resident as one of his chief opponents in the Republican primary is former Auburndale state Rep. Neil Combee, who locked up a lot of support in his home turf in the early goings of the race.

“I am honored by the outpouring of support for my campaign and truly humbled by the support of Commissioner Clements. I look forward to working in Congress to insure local government can do the work they need without duplicative and unnecessary interference from Washington. It is time for new ideas in Washington DC,” Kushmer said.

Also announcing support for Kushmer was Florida Right to Life, a staunchly pro-life conservative group that opposes any abortion, regardless of circumstance. In an email, the group said Kushmer earned its “A” rating and that they recommended a vote for him in the five-way Republican primary.

“Being someone that was adopted, I have always held strong to the belief that all life is precious and should be protected. While others may feel we should have a choice in life or death, I do not. My birth mother, whoever and wherever she may be chose life, and my parents chose me,” Kushmer said.

Kushmer faces Combee, Sean Harper, Ed Shoemaker, and Dover state Rep. Ross Spano in the Republican primary. None of the Republicans who made the ballot have filed a quarterly finance report, since they all entered the race until after Ross announced his retirement in mid-April.

Also running for the seat are Democrats Kristen CarlsonAndrew Learned and Ray Pena as well as three write-in candidates.

CD 15 is split between Hillsborough and Polk counties, with about 10 percent of the district’s voters living in Lake County. The district is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Tampa Tiger Bay Club to host bipartisan CD 15 candidate forum

The Tampa Tiger Bay Club will host all candidates who are running to fill the vacancy in Florida’s 15th Congressional District at a meeting Friday at the Ferguson Law Center in Tampa.

Tiger Bay officials invited the three Democrats and six Republicans competing to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland, who is retiring from the CD 15 after eight years.

By Thursday afternoon, all three Democrats — Andrew Learned of Valrico, Ray Pena and Kristen Carlson, both of Lakeland, had accepted.

Of the six Republicans who want the job, five had confirmed — Sean Harper and Ed Shoemaker of Lakeland, former state Rep. Neil Combee of Polk City, Danny Kushmer of Brandon, state Rep. Ross Spano, Dover. By late Thursday, Curt Rogers of Dover had not confirmed.

Both parties face tough primaries Aug. 28 before the two winners meet in the Nov. 6 general election.

Registration opens at 11:30 a.m., the event begins at noon. Chester Ferguson Law Center is at 1610 N. Tampa St. in Tampa. Tickets for members and first-time guests are $30; $40 for nonmembers. More information is at tigerbayclub.com.

Former Polk County sheriff backs Neil Combee for CD 15

Auburndale Republican Neil Combee has added another Polk County backer in his campaign to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

Former Polk County Sheriff Lawrence Crow on Monday joined a dozen other current and former Polk County officials in endorsing Combee, a former state representative and Polk County commissioner.

“I’ve known and worked with the Combee family for decades having served with Neil’s father in the Lakeland Police force. I can say without a doubt, Neil Combee has the honesty and integrity to represent the values of the hard working people of this Congressional district. As a former Sheriff I trust Neil Combee to uphold the Constitution, respect our sworn law enforcement officers and keep the United States a place where the rule of law matters,” said Crow, who served as Polk Sheriff from 1987 until his retirement in 2005.

Crow’s endorsement is the 21st for the Combee campaign since he announced his CD 15 run in mid-April. In addition to the dozen Polk County nods, Combee has picked up a handful of endorsements from Hillsborough County and Lake County elected officials.

“I’m proud to have this endorsement from Fmr. Sheriff Crow. It is humbling to have the support of several law enforcement leaders in the district, and I will work everyday in Washington to make sure they have the support they need to successfully protect and defend us,” Combee said.

Combee faces Dover state Rep. Ross SpanoSean HarperDanny KushmerCurt Rogers and Ed Shoemaker in the Republican Primary. Also running for the seat are Democrats Kristen CarlsonAndrew Learned and Ray Pena as well as three write-in candidates.

A poll from late last month showed Spano leading Combee in the crowded primary 29-23 with one third undecided. None of the other Republican candidates cracked 5 percent support in that poll.

About half of CD 15’s Republican voters live in Hillsborough County and another two-fifths live in Polk while a small slice lives in Lake County. The district is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

Ross Spano

Ross Spano leading CD 15 primary, but one-third undecided

While new polling gives state Rep. Ross Spano a six-point lead in the Republican primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, a third of voters surveyed say they are unsure.

St. Pete Polls conducted the survey May 25-27 which has the Dover Republican leading fellow state Rep. Neil Combee, 29-23 percent. The poll asked 494 likely primary voters in the Central Florida district that opened after Lakeland Republican Dennis Ross decided not to seek a fifth term.

Nearly 34 percent of voters polled are undecided. Spano currently represents east Hillsborough County in House District 59; Combee, a former state lawmaker from Polk City, represented HD 39 until November 2017, when he resigned to serve as Florida state director of the USDA Farm Service Agency.

Also in the single digits are Republicans Sean Harper (4 percent), Danny Kushmer (4 percent), Curt Rogers (2 percent) and Ed Shoemaker (4 percent).

Democrats in the race include Kristen Carlson, Andrew Learned and Ray Pena as well as three write-in candidates.

A majority of CD 15 voters are in either Hillsborough or Polk counties, though about 10 percent are in Lake County. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the political newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato, rates the district “likely Republican.”

The poll had a 4.4 percent margin of error and a 95 percent confidence level.

Ross Spano

Ross Spano lands Pam Bondi’s support in CD 15 primary

State Rep. Ross Spano landed a big endorsement for his congressional campaign Monday: Attorney General Pam Bondi.

“Today, I am proud to endorse my friend Ross Spano to be the next Congressman in Florida’s 15th District. Along with being a fighter for the people of Florida, Ross is a tried and true rock solid Conservative who will go to Washington, defend our Conservative values and partner with President [Donald] Trump in advancing his America First agenda. I hope the people of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties will join me in supporting Ross Spano,” Bondi said.

The announcement dropped shortly after Republican Primary rival Neil Combee announced another wave of local endorsements, this time within Spano’s home turf in Hillsborough. Bondi’s endorsement is the biggest thus far among the dozen candidates, including six Republicans, running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross.

“I am extremely humbled to receive Attorney General Pam Bondi’s endorsement. She is a Conservative leader whom I have been able to work alongside for the last six years to protect Floridians and our shared Conservative values,” Spano said. “The Attorney General and I have worked tirelessly to eradicate human trafficking from Florida and although there is much more to do, we have made huge strides. I look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts once I am elected to Congress.”

The one-time Attorney General candidate – Bondi opted to support former circuit court judge Ashley Moody in that contest – has now been endorsed by more than a dozen current and former elected officials.

Past endorsements include state Reps. Sam Killebrew, Jake Raburn, former state Rep. Rich Glorioso, Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden, Hillsborough Commissioner Al Higginbotham, Polk Commissioners George Lindsey and John Hall, Plant City Mayor Rick Lott, Plant City Commissioner Bill Dodson, former Plant City Mayor Randy Larson, and former Plant City Commissioner Billy Keel.

Spano faces Combee, Sean HarperDanny KushmerCurt Rogers and Ed Shoemaker in the Republican Primary. Also running are Democrats Kristen CarlsonAndrew Learned and Ray Pena as well as three write-in candidates.

About half of CD 15’s Republican voters live in Hillsborough County and another two-fifths live in Polk while a small slice lives in Lake County. The district is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Neil Combee’s congressional campaign adds Hillsborough support

The endorsements keep rolling in for former state Rep. Neil Combee, who is running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

With the addition of Dover state Rep. Lawrence McClure, former state Reps. Rachel Burgin and Carl Carpenter as well as Temple Terrace Mayor Mel Jurado, Combee’s list of backers now includes 20 current and former elected officials within the three-county Congressional district.

“Neil is a proven conservative who has worked tirelessly to see our country and President Trump succeed. As a rancher, Neil is uniquely qualified to advocate for our agricultural industry. I am proud to endorse Neil Combee to represent us in Washington,” McClure said.

Carpenter added that he’s “seen a lot of Congressmen come and go but “Combee is the real deal and is the only candidate that can keep the liberals at bay.” Burgin said Combee was “a man with true grit” and that his “proven track record in public service, and his strong agricultural background” make him her pick in the crowded CD 15 primary.

Jurado’s endorsement was more on the light-hearted side and even included an acronym for the Auburndale Republican’s name.

“I have been privileged to work alongside Neil Combee on policy and governance issues.  What I know about N.E.I.L.: N.o-nonsense — not about ‘yaption’, but about ‘action.’ E.xcellence — high standards, with an expectation of results. I.ntegrity — character-driven. L.eadership — specifically, Neil is a servant-leader, focused on delivering what benefits others, not self. This is why I support Neil Combee to be our next Congressman,” said Jurado, who is also a former director of the Florida Office of Early Learning.

The four endorsements announced Monday all came from the Hillsborough portion of CD 15, and follow a dozen backers from Polk County and a quartet of Lake County nods announced last week. His campaign claims yet again that “there will be many more to come.”

“The momentum is continuing to build, and I am so excited to have these great folks in Hillsborough give their endorsements. They will go a long way to helping us win this Primary,” Combee said.

Combee faces Dover state Rep. Ross SpanoSean HarperDanny KushmerCurt Rogers and Ed Shoemaker in the Republican Primary. Also running for the seat are Democrats Kristen CarlsonAndrew Learned and Ray Pena as well as three write-in candidates.

About half of CD 15’s Republican voters live in Hillsborough County and another two-fifths live in Polk, while a small slice live in Lake County. The district is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

Neil Combee adds Lake County support for CD 15 campaign

After two waves of Polk County endorsements for his Congressional campaign, Auburndale Republican Neil Combee is announced some Lake County supporters Friday.

Joining the dozen or so backers already lined up behind the former state representative were Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell, Lake County Property Appraiser Carey Baker, Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks and state Sen. Dennis Baxley, who lives in Marion County but represents most of Lake in the Senate.

“It is important to me that we have someone in Congress that will support those of us who protect the community. I have no doubt that Neil Combee will fight for law enforcement personnel and others who keep our country safe,” Grinnell said.

Baker cited Combee’s positions on the military, veterans, and the 2nd Amendment in his enforcement ; Parks said he’s behind Combee because of “his history of fighting for the average person, and for working to keep Florida and this country good for small business and workers.”

Baxley added that “no candidate will fight to Make America Great Again and help the President on Capitol Hill like Neil Combee. That’s why I’m behind Combee for Congress 100 percent.”

In accepting the endorsements, Combee said “to have these key folks in Lake County support me and my campaign means the world to me. I have great respect for all of them, and it warms my heart to know that these great leaders in Lake County believe in me and my campaign to be the next congressman for Florida’s 15th Congressional District.”

Combee is one of a dozen candidates running for CD 15, which opened up after U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross said he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2018.

Combee faces Dover state Rep. Ross SpanoSean HarperDanny KushmerCurt Rogers and Ed Shoemaker in the Republican Primary. Also running for the seat are Democrats Kristen CarlsonAndrew Learned and Ray Pena as well as three write-in candidates.

Most of CD 15’s voters live in Hillsborough or Polk, though about 10 percent are in Lake County. The district is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

Neil Combee heralds second wave of Polk endorsements

Auburndale Republican Neil Combee announced another half-dozen endorsements for his campaign to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, all of them from Polk County.

The nods came from former lawmaker J.D. Alexander, who served in the Florida House and Senate from 1998 to 2012, former State Attorney Jerry Hill, former Polk County Commissioner and former mayor of Auburndale Jack Myers, former Polk County Commissioner Jerry Carter, former Lakeland City Commissioner Don Gifford and former Polk County Commissioner and current member of the Southwest Florida Water Management District Paul Senft.

“I have known Neil Combee for many years now, and there is no one else who’s as passionate about serving others, agriculture, small business owners, or preserving our constitutional rights. He will always stand up for what’s right in Washington, and won’t forget those of us back here at home. I’m proud to endorse Neil for Congress,” Alexander said.

All the endorsements touted Combee’s conservative principles, from gun rights and job creation to secure borders and respect for the rule of law. Carter’s endorsement focused on Combee as a person, rather than his record as a politician.

“There aren’t many people out there today that are like Neil. His integrity, grit, spirit, and passion alone will make him a great congressman, however the most outstanding trait of Neil Combee is his heart for service. I’ve known Neil for 40 years now, and Washington needs more people like Neil, and I am proud to support Neil for Congress,” he said.

Wednesday’s announcement makes for a dozen Polk County endorsements so far. Last week, he announced the first half-dozen: Republican state Reps. Ben AlbrittonMike LaRosa and Josie Tomkow, former Republican Rep. John Wood, Auburndale Mayor Tim Pospichal and Polk City Mayor Joe LaCascia.

“I am blown away from the support that this campaign is getting, and I am honored that these folks think so highly of me that they would put their name behind this run for Congress. I am excited to have them on Team Combee,” Combee said.

CD 15 is split between Hillsborough and Polk counties, with about 10 percent of the district’s voters living in Lake County. Of the dozen candidates running for the seat this year, Combee is the most well-known in Polk County. He held the District 39 seat in the Florida House from November 2012 until November 2017, when he resigned to accept a presidential appointment at the USDA. He is also a former Polk County Commissioner.

Combee faces Dover state Rep. Ross SpanoSean HarperDanny KushmerCurt Rogers and Ed Shoemaker in the Republican Primary. Also running for the seat are Democrats Kristen CarlsonAndrew Learned and Ray Pena as well as three write-in candidates. CD 15 is rated “likely Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the prediction newsletter from University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato.

Spano, who lives in the Hillsborough portion of the district, is likely Combee’s most prepared opponent in the primary race. He moved his campaign over from the Attorney General race shortly after Ross’ retirement announcement.

Since then, he and Combee have released dueling press releases touting their support from area officials and announcing campaign events. Spano announced earlier this week that he’d picked up another dozen endorsements, including a pair from Combee’s Polk County turf.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

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