TAMPA — State Rep. Ross Spano has been telling friends he intends to run for attorney general of Florida next year instead of running for re-election to his House seat.
Spano, a Dover Republican, may announce the move within a few days, according to some of those he contacted seeking support. He could not be reached for comment.
An attorney now in his third term in the state House, Spano would join a crowded Republican primary for the attorney general’s office that already includes two of his House colleagues — Reps. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and Frank White of Pensacola.
The GOP field also includes Ashley Moody, a lawyer and former judge from Spano’s own home turf in East Hillsborough County.
That could add up to a tough primary, and could pose a dilemma for some Hillsborough Republicans, who could find themselves torn between the two East Hillsborough candidates.
"They’re both well-liked by their East Hillsborough base, and it may create somewhat of a short-term division" within the party, said local political consultant Mark Proctor.
Former state Rep. Dan Raulerson of Plant City said he’s a friend of Spano, but when Spano asked for his support, he had to say he was already committed to Moody, who’s from Raulerson’s home town.
On the other hand, Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island, said she has promised her endorsement to Spano.
Yet another local legislator, Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa, is considering entering the attorney general’s race on the Democratic side, while Tampa lawyer Ryan Torrens has already filed.
Spano easily won re-election to his District 59 seat in 2016, turning back a challenge from Democrat Rena Frazier.
He has said since then he would be interested in running for the state Senate if Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, leaves his seat to run for chief financial officer, as Lee has said he intends.
But Spano could have faced a tough primary in that race also, with at least two other local House members interested in the seat.
Fant and Moody have a big fundraising headstart in the attorney general’s race.
Moody has raised $864,146 in her campaign and $200,000 in her independent committee, Friends of Ashley Moody, while Fant has raised $959,581, including a $750,000 loan from himself.
White, a Pensacola millionaire who just filed two weeks ago, says he’s willing to spend his own money on the race.
Spano starts off with $38,000 in his House campaign account.
Contact William March at [email protected]