Democrat Alan Cohn, a former broadcast investigative journalist who has run for Congress from east Hillsborough twice before, has filed to run again, guaranteeing a competitive Democratic primary and possibly a hard-fought general election against one of five Republican candidates.
In the primary, Cohn faces Eddie Geller, a former comedian and political operative whose campaign accents progressive stances with lightheartedness and occasional jokes.
Cohn in past campaigns has styled himself a moderate, emphasized his credentials in investigating government corruption and done well at fundraising. In his unsuccessful 2020 race against Republican Scott Franklin, Cohn raised more than $2 million.
Geller, who filed in August, had raised $283,814 at the end of March.
Three other Democrats in the field had not raised substantial amounts.
Cohn said he held off from filing in the race to see the district lines produced by this year’s delayed redistricting and to research his chances.
“I don’t do anything unless I know I can be successful,” Cohn said. “We did all the things campaigns do to analyze the numbers of the new district, which is much different than in the past.”
He began his campaign with endorsements from U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor of Tampa, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, part of the national party’s candidate recruitment effort.
Cohn said he intends to run “a general election campaign.”
“I’m the candidate who has uncovered political corruption right here in Hillsborough and held politicians accountable,” he said.
Cohn’s name recognition, experience and fundraising could make him the primary frontrunner, but Geller said the competition “is between a new generation of leaders and an older guard … I think voters are excited about new candidates.”
Geller said he was spurred into the race, without regard for district lines, by the attack on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021, which he called “a coup.”
“We have to remind people that what happened is absolutely unacceptable and the people who encouraged it need to be held accountable,” he said. “I think the onus is on Alan to explain to voters why he is just now getting into the race.”
In 2014, Cohn lost to former Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland.
The district lines have changed since his previous losses, eliminating parts of Lake County and adding Democratic-leaning areas around the University of South Florida.
The current district voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden by 3 points and Gov. Ron DeSantis over Andrew Gillum by less than 1 point in 2020, according to Democratic political mapping expert Matt Isbell.
The Republican field includes former Secretary of State Laurel Lee, state Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland, state Rep. Jackie Toledo of Tampa, Demetries Grimes and Kevin John McGovern.