A primary challenge to a sitting Republican Congress member is unusual, but the challenge to Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, by Lakeland city Commissioner Scott Franklin just got even more unusual as Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, endorsed Franklin.
Gaetz, a firebrand ally of President Donald Trump, traveled to Lakeland to announce the endorsement in a news conference.
In a news release, he said Franklin is “the right person to ensure that President Trump has the strongest possible campaign” in Florida and the I-4 corridor.
Speaking to reporters, he acknowledged he’s bucking tradition by opposing a delegation colleague in his own party, according to quotes from the Lakeland Ledger.
But he said Spano would be a weak general election candidate, citing a federal investigation of Spano’s 2018 campaign finance irregularities.
Franklin has also announced endorsements by the GOP sheriffs of Lake and Polk counties. The district includes eastern Hillsborough plus the Lakeland and Clermont areas.
Spano, meanwhile, has announced endorsements from six of Florida’s 14 Republican House members — Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Daniel Webster, Greg Steube, Michael Waltz, and Mario Diaz-Balart — plus Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP House leaders.
Spano also just gained another important ally. The influential super PAC Club for Growth has reported it is spending $186,786 on TV and mail advertising opposing Franklin and supporting Spano.
The district leans Republican but Democrats believe they have a chance to flip it because of the Spano investigations. The GOP primary winner will face the winner of the Democratic primary between Alan Cohn and Adam Hattersley.