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Scott Franklin keeps Republicans' hold on House District 15 seat

With a majority of votes counted, the staunchly conservative Franklin held off an effort to flip the Congressional seat by former journalist Alan Cohn.
November's race for the 15th Congressional District seat pits Democrat Alan Cohn (left) against Republican Scott Franklin (right).
November's race for the 15th Congressional District seat pits Democrat Alan Cohn (left) against Republican Scott Franklin (right). [ Alan Cohn/City of Lakeland ]
Published Nov. 4, 2020|Updated Nov. 4, 2020

Republican Scott Franklin held the fort for his party Tuesday night, staving off Democrat Alan Cohn as the Associated Press called Franklin’s victory in Florida’s increasingly purple and hotly contested District 15 Congressional seat.

Franklin maintained a commanding 55 percent lead to Cohn’s 45 percent as the final handful of precincts and vote-by-mail results trickled in. By 8:30 p.m., Franklin’s lead was solid enough for the Lakeland city commissioner to celebrate with supporters at the Yard on Mass beer garden.

“The odds were against us,” Franklin told the crowd. “It was tough, but it was a strong victory through the help of all of you. Sign waving, phone calls, canvassing, Zoom calls, ‘Get out the vote.’ Everything made a difference in this election.”

With incumbent Republican Ross Spano sidelined by an ongoing campaign finance investigation, the seat — which sits upon the political bellwether known as the I-4 Corridor — became a must-win as the parties battled for a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Cohn, 58, is a former Sarasota TV journalist-turned-president of media firm AMC Strategic Communications who promised to hold the powerful accountable. He could not be reached Tuesday.

Franklin, 56, is a retired naval aviator and Trump acolyte who works as managing partner for the Lakeland-based Lanier Upshaw insurance agency. He was in his first term as commissioner when he decided to challenge Spano in the primary with party leaders’ blessings.

“I do want folks who did not vote for us to know that I’m looking forward to representing everyone in this district,” Franklin said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. "When I joined the Navy, you put the uniform on and you go get the job done. You put your differences aside, and you accomplish the mission. That’s what I plan to do.”

Both parties poured money into the race, anxious about a critical vote should the presidential election be contested in Congress.

The region has cast a reliably Republican vote since 1995. Recent data show a shift as two metropolitan areas converge on the district, which spans parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties: Registered Democrats have nearly caught up to Republicans.

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Representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $174,000.

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