All four Florida House incumbents in Polk County face challengers for November election

Challenges set for Polk legislative races

All four Florida House incumbents in Polk County face challengers for fall election as qualifying deadline passes. Term limits create opening for other local seat.

June 15, 2020  LAKELAND ― All four of Polk County’s state representatives seeking re-election will face at least one challenger this fall.  Friday was the deadline to qualify for Florida Legislature elections, and all four incumbents have drawn opposition. Meanwhile, six candidates have qualified to compete in Florida House District 42, which is open as Rep. Mike La Rosa faces term limits.

Rep. Sam Killebrew, R-Winter Haven, has one challenger as he seeks a third term in District 41, which covers northeast Polk County. Jared West, a Democrat from Davenport, has qualified for the election.  West, 30, is an Indiana native who has lived in Central Florida since 2012, according to his campaign website. West said he has worked for Walt Disney World, an engineering company and as a contractor with the United States Small Business Administration. His resume includes volunteer work for Young Democrats of America and nonprofit groups.  West had collected $2,495 in contributions through May 31, according to the Florida Division of Elections. All of the money came from individual donors.  Killebrew, 75, has gathered $51,507 in contributions, most of it from political-action committees. Killebrew’s donors include Amscot, Duke Energy, Florida Blue, Florida Phosphate and Walt Disney Travel Co.

Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, faces two challengers as she seeks a fourth term in District 40, which covers the greater Lakeland area. Two Lakeland residents ― Jan Barrow, a Democrat, and Emily Michie, with no party affiliation ― have qualified to run.  Burton, 62, has a significant financial advantage, having collected $121,400 in contributions. The bulk of the money comes from committees representing the likes of Associated Industries of Florida, Cemex Materials, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dosal Tobacco Corp., Duke Energy and Gilead Sciences, and fewer than 10 of Burton’s 144 contributions appeared to be from individuals.  

Barrow, 58, hasn’t held office before. She has collected $12,468 in contributions, with $750 from the Florida Democratic Party and the rest from individuals. Michie reported only a loan of $1,100 from herself.

Josie Tomkow, R-Polk City, faces a challenge from Democrat Chris Cause of Loughman as she seeks a second full term. Tomkow, 24, represents House District 39, which includes northern Polk County and a small section of Osceola County.  Tomkow has amassed $84,481 in contributions from likes of Aetna, Anheuser Busch, AT&T, Dosal Tobacco, Duke Energy and the GEO Group. Only four of her 99 contributions appeared to be from individuals.

Chris Cause, 46, is a teacher who announced his campaign about a year ago. He has gathered $6,474 in donations, all from individuals.  Melony Bell, R-Fort Meade, has drawn two Democratic challengers, James Davis of Bartow and Eric Bautista of Arcadia. Bell, 58, is seeking a second term in District 56, which covers southern Polk County, Hardee and DeSoto counties.


This article originally appeared in the Lakeland Ledger on June 15, 2020