Dennis Ross, a former U.S. representative from Lakeland who retired in 2019, announced his plan Tuesday to run as a Republican for Florida’s proposed 15th Congressional District.
The new boundaries for Florida’s congressional districts are being finalized, but in the draft map approved by the state Legislature, the new district would include north Hillsborough and east Pasco.
Ross, 62, retired after eight years in Washington, D.C., representing eastern Hillsborough County and parts of Polk and Lake counties in what is currently the 15th Congressional District. He was succeeded by Ross Spano, who was later defeated by U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin.
Ross said he felt compelled to run for office again after watching rising inflation and gas prices. He said the past few years have impressed upon him his “responsibility to return to restore fiscal responsibility and conservative principles to the halls of Congress.”
“On every issue, Congress is failing us,” he said in a statement. “I cannot sit back and watch. Now is the time to restore hope in America’s greatness. I will bring strong, conservative leadership and a positive vision for our country back to Congress.”
Ross said the United States is weak internationally and enemies are emboldened by lack of national leadership. He pointed to the war in Ukraine and China’s threats to Taiwan, and he talked about the need for the U.S. to have energy independence.
He also raised concerns about violent crime and illegal immigration into the country.
Ross said when he retired, he felt frustrated that the Republican majority wasn’t using their power to get things done, like repealing and replacing Obamacare. But this time around, Ross said, he sees a chance for Republicans to take the majority again and hopes to be part of the leadership.
“It’s frustrating sitting on the side knowing you’ve got gas in the tank you know you can offer, that you’ve got the experience, you’ve got a network,” he said.
Since retiring, Ross has worked as the director of the American Center for Political Leadership at Southeastern University and as a political science professor.
His students inspired his run, he said. On the first day of classes, he said, he asks them where they see themselves in five years, and he said he found it powerful that the students didn’t feel they had access to the same opportunities he had when he was younger.
“They don’t believe in politicians, they think the future’s not bright for them, and I disagree with them,” he said.
A spokesperson for Ross said he will not run against an incumbent like Franklin. Franklin is the incumbent in what is currently District 15, which has different boundaries from the District 15 in the proposed new map.
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State Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, announced earlier this month her plan to run for the redrawn 15th Congressional District. The proposed district leans slightly in favor of Republicans and includes the cities of Temple Terrace, Lutz, Zephyrhills, Dade City, Wesley Chapel and parts of Tampa north of East Busch Boulevard and Hillsborough Avenue.
But the new congressional map faces uncertainty; Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced his plan to veto the map approved by state lawmakers.
If DeSantis does veto, he can call for a special session to work it out or lawmakers can petition the court to draw the maps. The congressional map must be approved by June 17, the last day to file for election.