Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Florida Politics
  4. /
  5. The Buzz

Cohn leads in fundraising and Kathy Castor backs Hattersley in tight CD 15 race

On the Republican side, Scott Franklin led fundraising because of a second loan of his own money; his total investment in his campaign is now up to $300,000.
Former television journalist Alan Cohn (left) and State Rep. Adam Hattersley are Democratic candidates in Florida's 15th Congressional District. (Photos courtesy of Alan Cohn and Adam Hattersley.)
Former television journalist Alan Cohn (left) and State Rep. Adam Hattersley are Democratic candidates in Florida's 15th Congressional District. (Photos courtesy of Alan Cohn and Adam Hattersley.)
Published Jul. 18, 2020

Alan Cohn led fundraising for the second quarter of 2020 in the hotly contested Congressional District 15 Democratic primary, but opponent Adam Hattersley boasted a contribution from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, who hasn’t previously taken sides in the race.

On the Republican side in what is becoming one of the state’s marquee congressional battles, Scott Franklin led fundraising because of a second loan of his own money, bringing his total investment in his campaign to $300,000.

Meanwhile, incumbent Rep. Spano, R-Dover, turned in a healthy fundraising quarter, including contributions from the influential Club for Growth, but still owes substantial debt, some stemming from his 2018 campaign.

Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin (left) has filed to challenge U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, in a Republican primary.
Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin (left) has filed to challenge U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, in a Republican primary. [ City of Lakeland/Courtesy of Ross Spano ]

Franklin filed late in the race, taking the unusual step of challenging Spano, a sitting Congress member from his own party.

A Lakeland city commissioner, Franklin has substantial personal wealth after a career as an insurance executive. His recently filed federal candidates’ financial disclosure, on which candidates report assets and liabilities in ranges instead of specific amounts, appears to show a personal net worth between roughly $7 million and $44 million.

Most of Franklin’s wealth comes from the Lakeland-based insurance agency he still heads but recently sold.

Hattersley reported a $2,500 contribution in June from Castor’s Athena PAC.

Castor didn’t respond on deadline for this column as to whether she is endorsing Hattersley; the Hattersley campaign said they don’t know but noted she has donated only to him. As the county’s only Democratic Congress member, with growing seniority clout, she could have significant influence.

The district, covering east Hillsborough and the Lakeland and Clermont areas, leans Republican but Democrats believe they have a chance to flip it because of investigations into campaign finance irregularities from Spano’s 2018 race. It’s expected to be a top target for both parties.

The fundraising figures for April through June:

  • Cohn — $222,327, with $190,178 cash on hand.
  • Hattersley — $137,217, with $243,355 cash.
  • Spano — $164,669, with $348,900 cash and debts of $113,517.
  • Franklin — $99,120 plus his own $140,000 loan, with $379,344 cash and debt of $313,500, including $300,000 to himself.

Griffin mailer targets Millan

A mailer sent out by a new PAC formed by April Griffin’s husband is attacking Griffin’s opponent in the Democratic primary for tax collector, Nancy Millan.

The mailer calls Millan “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and suggests she’s “a Republican disguised as a Democrat” because she initially registered to vote as a Republican — though she switched to Democrat 27 years ago — and because she gave $100 to Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi’s re-election campaign in 2013.

A mystery Republican who just filed in the Hillsborough County tax collector’s race affect the Democratic primary between April Griffin (left) and Nancy Millan (right).
A mystery Republican who just filed in the Hillsborough County tax collector’s race affect the Democratic primary between April Griffin (left) and Nancy Millan (right). [ Left, Times; Right, courtesy of Nancy Millan ]

Millan first registered to vote in 1990, as a Republican.

She said she switched to Democrat in 1993, and elections office records appear to confirm that indirectly — there is no record of a switch since 1994, when the office started electronic record-keeping. Paper records from before 1994 weren’t immediately available.

“It’s no surprise that my opponent has resorted to gutter-style negative attacks,” Millan said via text message.

A long-time employee of the tax collector’s office and retiring Republican tax collector Doug Belden, Millan was little involved in politics before filing for this race in October.

Last year and this year, she donated to Democrats in three legislative races, one county commission race and to the local Democratic Party. Previously, she had donated only once to Bondi and once to Belden.

The mailer bears only the name of the committee, the Good Government for the People committee, which records show was registered by Griffin’s husband Brian Griffin July 1. He wouldn’t say what its money sources are or how much it has spent, or name anyone involved except himself.

The mailer uses an altered screen shot from the state Division of Elections web site, cutting off date filters that eliminate listings of Millan’s recent contributions to Democrats.

“Until this year, the only political contributions (Millan) made in her life were to Republicans,” it says.

April Griffin said she knew Brian Griffin had a PAC, but denied knowing anything about its activities.

The Democratic primary winner will be the frontrunner to succeed Belden.

Castor backs Cohen

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor has endorsed Harry Cohen in the District 1 county commissioner’s race, in which he is a distant fundraising leader.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. [ Times (2019) ]

But his Democratic primary opponent, Jen McDonald, is approaching the $50,000 fundraising milestone in June with $49,902 total raised.

In a campaign news release, Castor praised Cohen’s experience – he’s a former two-term city council member – and what she said was his commitment to “responsibly manage our community’s growth … and mitigate the growing costs of climate change,” a Castor cause.

McDonald, who has taken a strong growth management stance in her own campaign, noted that much of the $128,216 Cohen has raised has come in legal maximum $1,000 contributions from businesses, including real estate development interests, and said she has a “people-powered campaign.”

Cohen said he has “a very diverse group of contributors” including businesses, unions and individuals he’s worked with.

Tiger Bay forum

The next Tampa Tiger Bay Club political forum July 24 will feature candidates in the Democratic primary for Hillsborough County tax collector, April Griffin and Nancy Millan, and the two candidates running in an open primary for clerk of court, Kevin Beckner and Cindy Stuart.

The forum starts with the clerk candidates at noon. The public can watch live, and club members can submit questions, on the club’s web site and Facebook pages.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com.