Open race for Florida’s 15th Congressional district after Franklin unseats Spano in GOP primary

Elections Local

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Voters in Florida’s 15th congressional district, covering parts of Hillsborough and Polk counties, will elect a new congressman in November.

Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin defeated Rep. Ross Spano in Tuesday’s Republican primary by a narrow margin with 51.2 percent of the vote.

8 On Your Side spoke with Franklin in Lakeland shortly before the polls closed.

“My military background, business background, experience on the Lakeland City Commission, I think I bring a lot to offer to the district,” he said.

In the race to unseat first-term Congressman Spano, Franklin earned key endorsements from Rep. Matt Gaetz of Pensacola and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. 

“I think a lot of people I know locally trust the sheriff,” Franklin said.

Franklin will face former TV investigative journalist Alan Cohn. He won the Democratic primary with 41 percent of the vote, ahead of State Rep. Adam Hattersley (33%) and attorney Jesse Philippe (26%).

“I’ve been speaking truth to power,” Franklin said in a Zoom interview after his win with 8 On Your Side. “I’m not going to be one of these congressman that you hear at hearings giving speeches and not asking serious questions.”

When 8 On Your Side asked Franklin about the coronavirus pandemic, his answer focused on the economic recovery.

“I think the progress we’re making on trying to get the country open, get business back open and people back on their feet’s the top priority,” Franklin said, “so hopefully we can put some of the partisan bickering aside and get some meaningful reform through congress to get the relief to people they really need now.”

Franklin voted against the City of Lakeland’s mask order, at the time saying he is “a firm believer in personal responsibility.”

Cohn told 8 On Your Side he supports the Democratic presidential ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ proposal for a national mask mandate.

“We’re having difficulty not only in Florida but throughout the entire country when a pandemic has been politicized,” Cohn said, “that’s got to end right now.”

Congressman Spano’s campaign finances have been under investigation from the time he entered office.

His campaign directed 8 On Your Side to a statement provided Tuesday night to another reporter that thanked the voters for giving him the honor of serving in Congress the last two years.

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