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

Neil Combee

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.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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