Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland announced on Monday he is withdrawing from the crowded Republican primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District.
Ross, who previously served in the U.S. House for eight years until 2019, cited “limited resources” and the number of other candidates as his reasons for dropping out.
“I firmly believe that I am the most qualified candidate in this eight-person race, and I had been looking forward to running a very positive, issue-oriented campaign,” Ross said in a statement.
The 15th District, which is considered an open seat, covers northeast Hillsborough, southeast Pasco and part of Polk County, splitting Lakeland.
Ross said he would refund the money he raised to his donors, about $73,000 as of March, and wished his competitors well. Ross urged them to run campaigns free of personal attacks.
“Be the positive change that the voters deserve and yearn to have,” he said.
Ross said he will continue to work at Southeastern University as the director of the American Center for Political Leadership.
A number of Republicans have jumped into the race for the 15th District, especially after lawmakers approved the new congressional map boundaries.
State Rep. Jackie Toledo, state Sen. Kelli Stargel, former Secretary of State Laurel Lee, U.S. Army veteran Jay Collins, Green Beret veteran Jerry Torres and Navy veterans Demetries Grimes and Kevin John McGovern are all running as Republicans for the seat.
Torres, a newcomer to the area, said he would be willing to spend up to $15 million on the race if needed.
Few of the candidates for the race live within the district, which is not required.
Among Democrats, comedian Eddie Geller, political consultant Gavin Brown, veteran and former Postal Service worker Bill VanHorn and Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida President Cesar Ramirez are running.
Josue Vazquez and Brian Bertges are running with no party affiliation.