There may not be many exciting congressional races in Florida come 2020 with most incumbents firmly entrenched–but a race in Central Florida is sure to be a hot one.
Democrats are putting the full-court press on freshman U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Fla., who represents Polk, southern Lake and eastern Hillsborough Counties.
Spano won the seat with more ease than expected after surviving a five-way Republican primary but was immediately under fire for loaning his campaign money that he got from friends as a loan. An ethics complaint was filed and is now working its way through the system.
While Democrats wait for the outcome, a local party leader has filed two new ethics complaints over the same campaign financing. The Democrats are also coming up with new ways to try and discredit Spano.
Last week, a coalition of liberal groups including the Climate Alliance, Extinction Rebellion, the Hillsborough County Democratic Environmental Caucus, Indivisible East Hillsborough, and the Tampa Bay Sierra Club made a show of delivering textbooks on climate change to the congressman’s office in Bradenton. The controversy over climate change cropped up when Spano appeared on WFLA’s “Politics on Your Side,” telling the host flat out that he did not believe people were responsible for climate change.
“I don’t think there is sufficient evidence to show that,” Spano said. “I think there’s almost an inexorable push in expectation and belief that there is based on certain reporting,”
Democrats pounced. Spano’s remarks prompted U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. D-Fla., to rip into him on Twitter.
“We need to listen to scientists on the climate crisis. Not Ted Nugent,” Castor insisted.
Spano is taking it all in stride, looking ahead to potential competition and pointing out the agendas of the groups that want to take him down.
“When you look at the problems Democrats are facing nationwide, I’m surprised they’re spending so much time and effort worrying about me instead of building consensus within their ranks and trying to serve the American people more effectively,” Spano said. “Although frankly, I’m confident the average voter in District 15 doesn’t support the radical Democrat agenda, with Medicare for all, open borders, giving a free pass to people who enter our country illegally, etc. I believe they care about being able to earn a living to support their families, being able to keep them safe, and being able to live as Americans without the government breathing down their necks.”
Democrats have picked a formidable challenger on paper to take on Spano. Adam Hattersley is state representative representing Riverview and the rest of southeast Hillsborough County. Hattersley is a Navy veteran and was awarded the Bronze Star winner for his service in Iraq. He was more than happy to weigh in on the climate change kerfuffle.
“As an engineer, I’m listening to the consensus among the scientists and experts that climate change is real and we need to use data and facts to address it,” Hattersley said. “And as a Floridian, I’m committed to protecting our Sunshine State way of life and I will stand up to career politicians like Ross Spano who won’t even admit that climate change is real.”
As for Spano, he plans to run in much the same way he did last year, focusing on what he believes matters most to voters, jobs, and the economy.
“I believe the most important priorities for this race are working harder than anyone else in the race and making sure I’m paying attention to what my constituents are asking for. Jobs are critical, so I’m going to keep working as a member of the House Small Business Committee to advance policies that help our small business owners. I’m also extremely proud of my bill with Rep. Brad Schneider, HR 3537 which would authorize the Boots to Business program specifically designed to provide entrepreneurial support to veterans and their spouses who are seeking to start small businesses,” Spano said.
Stay tuned on this race as it will only heat up in the year to come.
Reach Mike Synan at firstname.lastname@example.org.