James Judge shifts congressional candidacy to challenge Laurel Lee in CD 15

James Judge
He made the move after Donald Trump called for a Primary challenge against Lee.

Pasco County Republican James Judge will challenge U.S. Rep. Laurel Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican, in Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

The Coast Guard veteran said he is answering a call by former President Donald Trump to find a GOP Primary challenge to Lee.

That means Judge will drop a challenge to U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican. But Judge argued that his presence in the race had already changed Bilirakis’ voting record in the right direction.

“In just six months, by shining a magnifying glass on my last opponent and holding him accountable, I was able to transform him from a D-rated Republican, a Congressman who voted about 60% of the time in-line with the Constitution, to a nearly A-rated conservative, who now aligns with the House Freedom Caucus,” Judge said.

“I’m asking voters to imagine what I could do with a full two-year term in Washington, where I pledge to hold the rest of Congress accountable.”

The decision also comes days after Trump, the presumptive 2024 GOP nominee for President, endorsed Bilirakis for re-election over Judge.

That’s a different situation from CD 15, where Trump has openly encouraged a challenge to Lee.

“Any great MAGA Republicans looking to run against Laurel Lee in Florida’s 15th Congressional District? IF SO, PLEASE STEP FORWARD!” Trump posted on Truth Social.

Lee was the only Republican in Florida’s congressional delegation to endorse Gov. Ron DeSantis for president this year, but she switched her endorsement to Trump a day after DeSantis suspended his campaign.

By contrast, Bilirakis endorsed Trump last April, shortly before DeSantis launched his campaign.

Judge called Lee’s voting record in her first term in Congress “shockingly terrible.”

“I believe fixing Congress isn’t as difficult as people make it out to be. We just need to elect officials who realize they will stand before God one day and give an account for their actions and inactions,” Judge said.

“It’s important to note my focus remains the same. I am running to end the anarchy at the southern border, restore law-and-order nationwide, balance the budget and pay down our national debt, something the Congresswoman has demonstrated she is adamantly against.”

He pointed at Freedom Index and Republican Liberty Caucus indexes that put her voting record at 50% and 55%, respectively.

“When your job is to support and defend the Constitution, these aren’t just failing grades, I’d say she is virtually working as a Democrat,” Judge said. “Equally disturbing are the special interest groups who are funding her campaign.”

Judge also ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, in 2022.

Judge is the second GOP candidate since Trump issued a call for challengers to announce a run against Lee. New Port Richey Republican Brian Perras has filed with the Federal Election Commission as a candidate.

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].


  • Phil Morton

    April 6, 2024 at 7:03 am

    Cool, but unlike CD 12, there are at least 2 Democrats running for CD 15. Anything Republicans can do to weaken Lee is appreciated.

  • Hung Wiil

    April 6, 2024 at 2:42 pm

    James Judge sucks. What a narcissistic douche. His own vanity project. Race-jumping candidates are amateurs; you’re gonna get crushed, tool.

Comments are closed.


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