Jay Collins shifts to challenge Janet Cruz, with Ron DeSantis’ support
Jay Collins. Image via Jay Collins campaign.

Jay Collins
Republican Shawn Harrison will end his campaign.

Green Beret Jay Collins will end his bid for Congress and instead challenge state Sen. Janet Cruz for her seat in the Legislature.

Gov. Ron DeSantis immediately endorsed Collins as the best Republican to challenge the Tampa Democrat. Meanwhile, Tampa businessman Shawn Harrison, who filed in April, will leave the race.

“Proud to support (Jay Collins) for Senate District 14. Jay is a conservative, a fighter, and a veteran. He was a Green Beret and is a Purple Heart amputee. I look forward to serving alongside him in Tallahassee,” DeSantis tweeted.

Collins on Twitter posted that he will run where he is needed.

Time and time again, I’ve answered the call to serve this country,” he wrote. “I look forward to continuing that mission alongside our great governor, Ron DeSantis.”

In a news release, he added, “I have answered the call to serve the American people my entire life. I am honored to answer the call to serve my neighbors and our great state of Florida with the full support of Governor Ron DeSantis. Together, we will continue the fight for real conservative change, and that fight is here at home.”

Collins leaves a crowded field of candidates vying for the open seat representing Florida’s 15th Congressional District. A list of high-profile Republicans still vie for the seat, including DeSantis’ former Secretary of State Laurel Lee, state Sen. Kelli Stargel, state Rep. Jackie Toledo and veterans Demetries Grimes and Mac McGovern.

Notably, Collins as of the last quarterly reports boasted the most fundraising success. He had raised $769,447 for the congressional run through March, and had invested $430,694 into the contest. Differences in federal contribution limits mean he won’t be able to take all of that money with him.

But based on other races around the state, starting the Senate race with the endorsement of DeSantis will likely clear the Primary field of any serious GOP competitors.

This is the second time this campaign cycle that Collins has shifted his candidacy. He initially filed to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor in Florida’s 14th Congressional District but moved to the CD 15 race in May after a new congressional map signed by DeSantis left CD 15 leaning more Republican and CD 14 as a Democratic stronghold.

As for his new battleground in Senate District 14, that once again puts Collins in a blue-leaning seat, but a competitive one. About 51.25% of voters under the new SD 14 lines favored Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election while 47.33% voted for Republican Donald Trump.

Republicans, though, feel good about their chances in the Midterms, with Biden remaining unpopular over the last several months and potentially creating a drag on Democrats down-ballot.

Of note, Cruz won her seat in 2018 by a thin margin defeating Republican incumbent Dana Young by 382 votes following a hand recount. That was under the old Senate District 18 lines, where Biden in 2020 took 51.07% of the vote to Trump’s 47.52%.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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