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It's still anyone's race in CD 15.

Tampa Bay

Ross Spano nabs backing from incumbent Dennis Ross, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd

Republican Congressman Dennis Ross is backing Ross Spano as his successor, Spano announced Thursday. Conservative Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd also endorsed Spano.

Spano, a current Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives, is running for Florida Congressional District 15 covering parts of north Hillsborough and Polk Counties including Brandon, Plant City, Bartow and Lakeland. He’s running against Democrat Kristen Carlson.

“Ross Spano is a proven leader who will hit the ground running on day one. He will continue building upon the historic economic growth we are experiencing and improve the lives and financial security of families in our community,” Ross said. “I am proud to support my friend Ross Spano who will put people over politics and thoughtful solutions over empty rhetoric.”

The news comes as the latest campaign finance reports show Carlson trouncing Spano in funding with more than double the contributions over Spano. Carlson has raised nearly $1 million as of the end of September compared to Spano’s less than $440,000.

Carlson’s campaign war chest is crucial for her to win. The Congressional district is deeply conservative. Voters there went plus-10 for President Donald Trump in 2016. Ross stomped Democratic nominee Jim Lange in the district with a 15-point margin of victory.

A poll out earlier this month showed Spano holding a slight edge over Carlson. A follow up poll conducted by a conservative pollster put Spano 7 points ahead of Carlson.

“As Polk County Sheriff, my number one priority is to keep Polk County safe. I need a partner in Congress who will help me accomplish that objective, and that partner is Ross Spano,” said Sheriff Judd. “I am confident he is the right person for the job. That is why I am endorsing Ross for Congress.”

In an announcement, Spano said he plans to build on his experience as a state Representative where he said he worked on behalf of vulnerable populations and was a champion for small businesses.

“Earning the support of these two leaders, both of whom I admire and respect greatly, is an honor,” said Spano. “I’m 100 percent committed to living up to the trust they have placed in me by putting people over politics and working hard for the residents of the 15th District, starting on day one.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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