Former U.S. House member Dennis Ross seeks return, plans to run in new district

Lakeland resident Dennis Ross, who spent four terms in Congress, wants to return to Washington, D.C.

Ross announced Tuesday that he plans to run this year as a Republican in U.S. House District 15. The Florida Legislature has approved new district boundaries as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process, and the newly drawn District 15 will cover northeast Hillsborough County.

Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Lakeland, currently serves in District 15, which now covers northern Polk County and parts of Hillsborough and Lake counties. Florida gains a U.S. House seat because of population growth, and the Legislature’s map creates a new district that covers all of Polk County.

Franklin is expected to run in that district. Ross said that he intends to run in the new District 15 and will not challenge an incumbent.

“Seeing what’s happened in the last few years has just forced me to get off the sidelines and get back in the game, and that’s exactly the way I feel,” Ross said Tuesday afternoon. “And I feel compelled to do that in, I think, a very statesmanlike fashion (that) I think the voters are craving for. I am a conservative, always have been, but I think I’ve also worked over the years to build relationships even with divergent ideas, divergent thoughts.”

U.S. House members are not required to reside within their districts. For example, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, lives outside the boundaries of District 17, which he represents.

“And I think the one thing that I bring to the table is eight years of seniority when I go back, which will give them a step up in representation in Congress,” he said.

Ross, 62, served in the U.S. House from 2011 to 2019, originally in District 12. After the last round of redistricting, he shifted to District 15 for his next three terms.

Ross chose not to run for re-election in 2018 and was succeeded by Ross Spano of Dover. Franklin ousted Spano in the Republican primary in 2020 and then beat Democrat Alan Cohn in the general election.

Ross said he expects Republicans to retake a majority in the U.S. House with the midterm elections. He said he would push Republican leaders to “risk their majority” by acting on key issues they failed to advance when they controlled the chamber before.

Ross said he was frustrated by the Republicans’ inability to pass major bills on health care and reforms to immigration law, financial services and flood insurance. He said he favors a piecemeal approach on immigration, including a law to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program former President Barack Obama created by executive order. 

Eddie Geller, a Democrat from Brandon, is running against Franklin and is expected to switch his candidacy to the new District 15. He leads all Democrats in the race in fundraising.

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