Ross Spano draws tough primary challenge in Scott Franklin

Scott Franklin
Spano's resources are already tight.

U.S. Rep. Ross Spano drew a primary challenger this week, according to filings with the Federal Division of Elections.

Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin filed Monday to run against Spano.

“During my 26 years in the Navy, I fought for our rights, for our freedoms and for our families. Now I want to fight for us in Washington. I will work with President Donald Trump to Keep America Great. These are uncertain times, and we must have strong, trusted leadership representing our families, our businesses and our communities in Washington,” Franklin said.

Franklin’s entrance into the race means Spano will have to use valuable resources warding off a primary challenge.

Spano’s fundraising activity has been shaky, at best. As of the end of December, Spano had less than $125,000 on hand, with another more than $83,000 in debt obligations. That means his campaign was worth just over $41,000, a paltry sum for an incumbent congressional candidate. By comparison, Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in nearby District 13 had nearly $3 million on hand.

Spano is also already facing a credible challenge on the left from either Rep. Adam Hattersley or former news anchor Alan Cohn. The two Democrats are running for their party’s nomination, and the winner would have faced Spano in the November general election.

Spano criticized Franklin for entering the race as Floridians and people across the globe continue to reel from the spreading coronavirus.

“My approach to public service has always been People not Politics. Yesterday, I announced a temporary pause to my campaign to fully address this public health crisis related to COVID-19. I find it unsettling that Scott Franklin would choose to launch a campaign during these trying times,” Spano said.

“I remain focused on serving my community: working with President Trump, talking to pastors, health care providers, constituents and small business owners from across the district — and politics is the last thing on everyone’s minds. Focusing on anything else right now does not reflect the values of Florida’s 15th district.”

Franklin’s entrance into the race is also a telling indication of the intense problems he’s facing in his reelection bid.

Spano faces an onslaught of criticism stemming from illegal loans he accepted from friends during his 2018 campaign. Spano borrowed $70,000 from Karen Hunt and $110,000 from Cary Carreno through four personal loans. He then contributed the money to Ross Spano for Congress through installments between May 3 and Oct. 29.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has consistently made Spano’s loans an issue in the race, which is one of the DCCC’s top 2020 targets to flip blue.

Franklin is the president and CEO of Lanier Upshaw, a regional insurance and risk management agency in Lakeland. He’s also a retired naval aviator and served 14 years on active duty and another 12 in the reserves.

Franklin has lived in Lakeland, which is included in Florida’s 15th Congressional District in addition to east Hillsborough County, for more than 40 years.

The congressional primary is August 18.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


One comment

  • Jeff King

    March 18, 2020 at 6:31 am

    Awesome! I’m so glad a real conservative has entered the race. No one can’t stand that ross the closet homo!

Comments are closed.


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