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.