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 Albritton, Mike 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 Spano, Sean Harper, Danny Kushmer, Curt Rogers and Ed Shoemaker in the Republican Primary. Also running for the seat are Democrats Kristen Carlson, Andrew 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.