Josie Tomkow KOs Jennifer Spath in HD 39 special primary election

Josie Tomkow background

In what may be shaping up as the political “Year of the Woman,” Josie Tomkow has won the Republican primary for House District 39, which opened up over Thanksgiving with the departure of Neil Combee.

Tomkow, a 22-year-old University of Florida student, took a decisive 65 percent of the vote to become her party’s nominee for the Republican-leaning seat covering Auburndale, Polk City, North Lakeland and a portion of Osceola County.

Combee had won re-election in HD 39 by more than 62 percent in 2016.

“The community, especially the agricultural community, showed up!” Tomkow said in a statement. “As I’ve said from day one, I’ll never stop fighting for the people of this district, our heritage and our way of life.”

Tomkow’s opponent, 34-year-old Jennifer Spath, was trounced with only 35 percent of the vote.

Tomkow previously worked in the office of Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, and in her parent’s business, Cattlemen’s Livestock Market in Lakeland. Throughout the race, she has led in fundraising, taking in nearly $120,000 by Feb. 15.

“Josie was one hell of a campaigner,” said Republican consultant Tom Piccolo.

Spath, a former prosecutor in the 10th Judicial Circuit, raised only $27,325 in the race, and loaned her campaign $31,500.

The race became contentious after a political-action committee supporting Tomkow sent six flyers in the last month to HD 39 Republican voters, which described Spath as a “liberal” fan of Hillary Clinton and soft on crime as a prosecutor.

“You can’t trust liberal lawyer Jennifer Spath’s judgment,” one of the mailers said, pointing out that, in 2012, she agreed to a plea deal to a man charged with battering a law enforcement officer.

“The man only spent 120 days in jail with 12 months’ probation for this crime of battery on a law enforcement officer,” the flyer stated. The flyers were paid for by the Venice-based Make America Great Again political action committee.

Another flyer showed a picture of Spath next to Clinton with a heart between them.

On Nov. 24, Combee resigned his seat to take a post as state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.

Tomkow now faces Democrat Ricky Shirah in the May 1 special election.

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a Tampa Bay-area journalist, editor and writer. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including His broad range includes covering news, local government, entertainment reviews, marketing and an advice column. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in Tampa with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached on Twitter @PhilAmmann or at [email protected].


  • Mary Ann Harrell

    February 20, 2018 at 7:56 pm

    Well, hope these voters liked Neil Combee, because he’s the puppet master pulling Tomkow’s strings

  • Angie

    February 20, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    Looks like money won out over experience. Hope Polk county is happy with a child as their representative.

    • Ray

      February 21, 2018 at 6:56 pm

      Doesn’t say much for Neil that he thought that a buddy”s kid who still lived at home would be the best candidate he could endorse. I just lost all respect.

  • Mary

    February 21, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    Another NRA puppet….enjoy your short stay Josie!

  • Kathie

    February 21, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    Not surprising that she should win with lots of big PAC money behind her. Combee and company supplied the money and now they can pull the strings. Easy to do since she has no experience, has barely lived in the district, and is quite happy to play the role of NRA princess!

  • Ronald Pence

    February 22, 2018 at 4:55 am

    I thought the ads about Spath being friends with Hillary really rang bells. I don’t see anyone being friends of Hillary being elected for anything. The light punishment for battery on a police officer did not help her either. The young age of Tomkow was not enough to cause me a problem voting for her. I hope she is up to the job.

Comments are closed.


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