A bundle of Polk County officials announced this week that they’re backing former Auburndale Republican Rep. Neil Combee in his bid for Florida’s 15th Congressional District.
The nods came in from current Republican Reps. Ben Albritton, Mike LaRosa and Josie Tomkow, who was recently elected to replace Combee in a special election for House District 39. Also on the list were former Rep. John Wood, Auburndale Mayor Tim Pospichal and Polk City Mayor Joe LaCascia.
Most of the endorsements praised Combee’s conservative bona fides – Albritton called him a “natural born leader,” LaCascia said Combee would never “forget who he is or where he comes from,” and Pospichal said “Main Street America needs Neil Combee.”
Tomkow’s endorsement was the most glowing. Combee was her first backer in the HD 39 contest and his upcoming kickoff fundraiser is set to be hosted at Sunny Acres Lodge, which is owned by the Tomkow family.
“I’ve known Neil and the Combee family my whole life, and there is no one who will fight harder for our area than him. He is fair, honest and humble. He means what he says, and his word is as good as gold. He is the only one in this race who will work to continue making America great again,” she said.
In accepting the endorsements, Combee stated “These folks wake up every day trying to make life better for their neighbors. That’s what service is about. It’s truly humbling to have earned their trust and support. The campaign is picking up momentum. Together we won’t let the liberals destroy our great Country.”
Combee was the first major candidate to declare for CD 15 after U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross’ announcement that he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2018. He is one of six Republicans to qualify for the ballot, alongside Dover Rep. Ross Spano, Sean Harper, Danny Kushmer, Curt Rogers and Ed Shoemaker.
Also running for the safe Republican seat are Democrats Kristen Carlson, Andrew Learned and Ray Pena as well as three write-in candidates.
Spano is likely the best known of Combee’s primary rivals in the primary race.
CD 15 covers parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties. Spano’s base of support is in the Hillsborough portion, which is home to half of the district’s Republican voters. The Polk portion has about 40 percent of CD 15’s Republicans.
Spano is attempting to make inroads into Polk. He’s holding a campaign event this weekend in Lakeland, and has snagged endorsements from Winter Haven Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew and former Polk County Commissioner George Lindsey.
Combee’s Polk endorsements – the “first of many,” the campaign says – somewhat rebuff those efforts by showing off his strong support on his home turf. Nearly all of Combee’s former state House seat is within the boundaries of CD 15 and the last time he was on the ballot he took 62 percent of the vote.