Federal Election Commission: Ross trails two rivals in District 15 funds

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Former congressman Dennis Ross of Lakeland trails two other new Republican entrants in the race for U.S. House District 15, according to recent federal reports.

Ross, who announced his candidacy in March, collected about $73,000 in contributions for the period ending March 31, according to his filing with the Federal Election Commission. That put him behind Florida Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, and Demetries Grimes, two other Republican candidates in the race.

Previously: Challenger nearly matches Rep. Franklin's contributions

Related: Retired Navy commander Demetries Grimes enters crowded race for U.S. House District 15

U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Lakeland, currently serves in District 15, which covers northern Polk County and parts of Hillsborough and Lake counties. But a new congressional map approved Friday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would change the boundaries, with District 18 covering most of the county and ranging south to Hendry County.

Dennis Ross, who announced his candidacy in March, collected about $73,000 in contributions for the period ending March 31, according to his filing with the Federal Election Commission.
Dennis Ross, who announced his candidacy in March, collected about $73,000 in contributions for the period ending March 31, according to his filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Franklin’s campaign previously said that he would run in the new District 18 if the Florida Legislature approved DeSantis’ map.

The governor’s map divides Lakeland down U.S. 98 and South Florida Avenue. District 15 would encompass the west side of Lakeland, northeast Hillsborough County and southern Pasco County.

Toledo, who only filed to run in March, reported contributions of about $353,027 and available cash of $348,000. Her donors include Florida Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City, and state Rep. David Smith, R-Winter Springs.

Grimes, who entered the race in January, reported receipts of nearly $163,000 and cash on hand of about $133,000 for the quarter ending in March.

Ross, who chose not seek a fifth term after serving in the U.S. House from 2011 to 2019, has since been a political science professor and leader of the American Center for Political Leadership at Southeastern University. In his first FEC filing, Ross reported contributions from Florida Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, and former Florida Senate president Joe Negron, now general counsel for the GEO Group, a company that operates private prisons.

Also: Polk supervisor of elections warns state's deadline on congressional maps is too late

Ross’ other contributors include retired Publix Super Markets executive Barney Barnett, Ralph Allen, Ford Heacock III, Mark Hollis Jr. and David Kaylor. He also reported a contribution of $1,000 from Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Hillsborough County.

Baskin was featured in the Netflix documentary “Tiger King.” (Her name is misspelled as “Carold” in the filing.)

Ross has had some missteps in the early stages of his campaign, as reported by Florida Politics. The accounting firm Robinson Gruters and Roberts filed a statement of organization with the FEC in March that misspelled his political committee as “Dennis Ross for Congree.”

The firm amended the form the next day to correct the spelling to “Dennis Ross for Congress.”

Within days, the accounting firm filed a second statement of organization to create another political committee, “Friends of Dennis Ross,” but it terminated the committee in April and wrote to the FEC that the papers for incorporation had been wrongly filed, Florida Politics reported.

'A million different ways': Polk legislators confident they'll reach a deal on maps

Ross’ campaign submitted the quarterly report to the FEC on April 12 and then filed an amendment three days later. Both versions list the political committee as Friends of Dennis Ross but provide the federal identification number of Dennis Ross for Congress.

And both versions of the filing errantly list cumulative receipts from donors as zero on all lines, Florida Politics reported. A spokesman for Ross’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The FEC filing shows Ross with $71,700 in available cash.

Ross reported receipts of $12,500 from other political committees, including a combined $7,000 from PACs connected with U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana. Ross served as a senior deputy majority whip in the House when Scalise was majority whip.

Ross’ campaign also received donations from the GEO Group’s PAC and from a committee associated with Rep. Steve Womack, R-Arkansas.

Big quarter for Franklin

Grimes, a retired U.S. Navy commander, reported contributions from donors living in Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia, along with those from Florida residents.

Grimes’ donors include Philip Christopher; CEO of American Network Solutions; Nicholas Iltsopoulos, vice president of operations for Trident Group America; and Andrew Limouris, CEO of Medix, a staffing agency based in Chicago.

Locally, Grimes has received contributions from C.B. Myers, a Lake Wales lawyer, and from Victor Story and Kyle Story, leaders of a Lake Wales agricultural company. (Kyle Story also donated to Ross.)

Grimes also reported loaning his campaign $15,000.

Grimes has homes in Orlando and Poinciana, according to his campaign manager, J.C. Martin, chair of the Polk County Republican Party. Martin said Grimes plans to move into the district once the boundaries are settled.

Franklin, still listed as a candidate in District 15, reported receipts of about $174,500 in the first quarter. That brought his total for the campaign cycle to more than $463,000, with nearly $420,000 in campaign cash available.

Interview with Rep. Scott Franklin at his office in Lakeland Fl. Wednesday July 7 2021.  ERNST PETERS/ THE LEDGER
Interview with Rep. Scott Franklin at his office in Lakeland Fl. Wednesday July 7 2021. ERNST PETERS/ THE LEDGER

The filing shows that Franklin received $54,000 in the first quarter from other political committees. Those included PACs for Publix Super Markets, Koch Industries, the American Bankers Association and the Airline Pilots Association.

Franklin, an insurance executive in his first term, loaned his campaign $550,000 in the 2020 election. His FEC filing lists campaign debts of nearly $423,000.

Eddie Geller of Brandon leads all Democrats in the District 15 race with a cumulative $284,000 in campaign contributions. Geller, a former comedian making his first run for office, reported collecting just over $100,000 in the first quarter and carries about $107,000 in campaign cash.

No only other candidate in District 15 has reported more than $10,000 in campaign contributions.

It's not clear if any additional Democrats might enter the race in the newly drawn District 18.

Other districts

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, is seeking a fourth term in District 9, which covers eastern Polk County, Osceola County and part of Orange County. In DeSantis’ proposed congressional map, the boundaries remain similar but the district only juts into Polk County in the Poinciana area.

Congressman Darren Soto is the only Democrat now representing Polk County at the state or federal level.
Congressman Darren Soto is the only Democrat now representing Polk County at the state or federal level.

Soto collected about $219,000 in donations in the first quarter, according to his FEC filing. That lifts his total contributions for the election cycle to nearly $709,000, giving him $649,000 in available campaign cash.

Soto received more than $139,000 from political committees in the first quarter. Contributors included PACs for Pfizer, Citigroup, The Home Depot, Verizon Communications and the American Hospital Association.

Scotty Moore of Orlando led all Republican candidates with nearly $159,000 in contributions during the first quarter. Moore, who joined the race in September, has collected about $268,000 for the election cycle.

On his campaign website, Moore says that he worked for the past two decades with a non-profit missionary organization.

Another Republican, Bill Olson of Davenport, reported nearly $16,000 in contributions in the first quarter for a combined $148,000 during the cycle. Olson’s campaign ended the quarter with nearly $27,000 in available cash.

Fellow Republican Jose Castillo of Davenport received nearly $9,000 in the first quarter. He has reported about $61,000 in total contributions and carries about $17,000 in campaign cash.

Daniel Anthony, a Republican from Orlando, entered the race in January and reported nearly $18,000 in campaign contributions. Anthony had about $29,000 in available cash and reported $14,000 in debt.

U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, is seeking a third term in Congress. District 17, where he now serves, encompasses southern Polk County and all or part of eight other counties as far south as the Fort Myers area.

U.S. Rep. Greg Steube of Sarasota spent eight years in the Florida House and Florida Senate before being elected to Congress in 2018.
U.S. Rep. Greg Steube of Sarasota spent eight years in the Florida House and Florida Senate before being elected to Congress in 2018.

In DeSantis’ proposed congressional map, District 17 is confined to Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties.

Steube reported contributions of nearly $194,000 in the first quarter. That figure included more than $71,000 in donations from political committees, including those affiliated with Fox Corporation, Koch Industries, AT&T, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, The Home Depot and Nextera Energy.

Three other candidates in District 17 — two Democrats and a non-party entrant — have reported no campaign contributions.

In DeSantis’ proposed congressional map, District 11 contains most of Polk County north of Interstate 4, along with Lake County and parts of Orange and Sumter counties.

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, currently serves in District 11. He is seeking reelection and reported nearly $53,000 in contributions in the first quarter, giving him about $415,000 for the election cycle. He holds $326,000 in campaign cash.

Another Republican, Laura Loomer of Lake Worth, reported nearly $170,000 in donations during the first quarter. She has collected more than $500,000 for the cycle and has about $141,000 in available cash.

Loomer has been affiliated with the conservative Project Veritas and the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and has been banned from major social media platforms.

No other candidates in District 11 have reported more than $15,000 in contributions.

Gary White can be reached at gary.white@theledger.com or 863-802-7518. Follow on Twitter @garywhite13.

This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Lakeland's Ross trails two rivals in District 15 campaign fundraising