Whatever happened in the Primary Election, Democrats saw a glimmer of hope to gain another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, either by taking on an embattled incumbent in Florida’s 15th Congressional District or by running, again, for an open seat.
Democrats lost the open race two years ago when Democrat Kristen Carlson came within 6 points of Ross Spano. But her loss was overshadowed by revelations that Spano had accepted what amounted to $180,000 in illegal contributions for the race, money that might have put him over the top in the race.
The contributions, which stemmed from personal loans from two Spano friends, landed Spano the subject of a federal investigation. Democrats hoped that lingering cloud would pave the way to victory proven illusive just two years prior.
But Scott Franklin beat them to it, setting up an arguably harder race.
Franklin, armed with attacks over Spano’s campaign finance kerfuffle, defeated Spano in the GOP Primary Election.
Meanwhile, investigative journalist Alan Cohn bested Rep. Adam Hattersley in the Democratic primary.
Now the two face off, a well-liked Polk County politician in Franklin, a current Lakeland City Commissioner, against a relatively unknown in Cohn.
The race will be close. Various polls put Cohn 2 to 3 points behind Franklin, but within polling margins of error.
The Cook Political Report lists the seat “lean Republican,” giving Franklin the edge. Voter registration in the district also favors Franklin, with 36% of the district’s tri-county electorate in the GOP and 35% registered as Democrats, a margin so close Democrats can taste it.
Franklin has spent the race running on all the typical 2020 Republican talking points, law and order, fiscal conservatism and, perhaps most importantly, not being a socialist. Ads have accused Cohn of siding with leftist extremism and supporting a socialist agenda. He has attempted to tie Cohn to protests against police brutality, which in some places have led to looting, destruction and violence.
Cohn obviously refutes all of that, noting that while he supports police reforms, he does not support defunding the police. Instead, he has campaigned against Franklin’s party affiliation, noting Franklin’s support for President Donald Trump’s tax package and for repealing the Affordable Care Act, a move made even more provocative a talking point given the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Cohn frequently cites the 2018 Trump tax package in talking points, claiming it raised taxes on 86 million Americans. The claim is not false, but it looks only at the last year of the tax cuts, 2027, and leaves out the fact that about 80% of taxpayers would get a tax cut in the early years of the package, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. By 2027, about 50% would see an increase, a greater proportion of whom are in the bottom 80% of taxpayers.
Cohn has raised more for the race than Franklin. Through the life of his campaign, as of mid-October, Cohn had raised nearly $1.9 million while Franklin brought in more than $1.2 million, $400,000 of which came from Franklin himself.
Overall, Cohn spent about $500,000 more than Franklin on the race.