Democrats Learned, Pilkington to Challenge GOP Rep. Ross in Florida
Six Florida Democrats are vying for the opportunity to challenge U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland in the coming U.S. House elections but only two candidates, Andrew Learned of Bloomingdale and James Gregory Pilkington of Indian Lake Estates in Polk County appear to have the finances to see this campaign through.
Four-term Republican, U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, represents the 15th District in northwestern Polk and eastern Hillsborough counties.
Learned, single, 30-year-old graduate of the University of Tampa who returned from overseas Navy deployments recently, grew up in Valrico and runs a tutoring franchise there.
He raised $22,289 through June including $2,000 from his own money. Learned hired a campaign manager and the “Pinellas County-based Blue Ticket political consulting firm” to aid him in his campaign.
Democrat Pilkington is a 54-year-old married business consultant with three grown children and a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina.
Until recently he was an employee of the World Customs Organization in Brussels, an international body that coordinates customs practices for member nations including the United States. Before that, he worked in customs for U.S. shipping firms
Pilkington hired campaign staff including a manager and communications director and funded his campaign so far with a $25,000 loan accounting for the $26,338 total raised.
Both Democrat candidates are first-time candidates while Ross is a former Florida State House member in his fourth term as congressional representative from the GOP-leaning 15th District in northwestern Polk and eastern Hillsborough counties.
Democrats Learned and Pilkington both said they are running in part because of Ross’s support for GOP attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Both candidates stated that they intend to run grassroots campaigns to catch a wave of Democratic resistance to the administration of President Donald Trump.
“Dennis Ross is closely aligned with the current administration,” Pilkington said. “If ever there was a time that we could flip this district it is now.”
A third Democrat, insurance broker, and Brandon native Cameron Magnuson, recently returned to Brandon from the Washington, D.C., area after filing in February. Three others— Ray Pena and Greg Williams of Lakeland and Jeffrey Rabinowitz of Clermont — have not yet filed any campaign finance reports.
Meanwhile, Trump’s approval ratings is tanking in Florida.
An online “instapoll” sent by Rep. Vern Buchanan, the Longboat Key Republican and Trump ally, to his constituent mailing list shows that 52 percent “Strongly disapprove” another 4 percent “somewhat disapprove,” with “strongly approve” and “somewhat approve” totaling 44 percent.
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