For years, Lakeland was represented by one member of the U.S. House of Representatives. After this year’s realignment of districts, Lakeland is split nearly in half. District 15 covers all of Lakeland west of Florida Avenue and U.S. 98 N. District 18 covers the other half.

The Districts

District 15 includes portions of Lakeland west of Florida Avenue and U.S. 98. There is no incumbent.
District 18 includes portions of Lakeland east of Florida Avenue and U.S. 98. Republican incumbent Scott Franklin faces challengers from both parties.

District 15, Republicans

The District 15 race is getting a lot of attention because it has no incumbent. Political analysts say Republicans have a clear edge in the district, but an upset is possible. The three women on the Republican ballot have significant government experience and name recognition while the two men have proven adept at fund-raising despite lower profiles. At one time, former U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland was a candidate for this primary, but he has withdrawn.

Demetries Grimes

  • Republican
  • Orlando, age 56
  • Website
  • Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: Warrior. Conservative. Diplomat.
  • Endorsements: Republican Liberty Caucus, SEAL PAC, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Leadership institute Family PAC

Laurel Lee

  • Republican
  • Brandon, age 48
  • Website
  • Facebook | Twitter | Vimeo
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: A Conservative Leader for Congressional District 15.
  • Endorsements: Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Plant City Mayor Nathan Kilton, Concerned Veterans for America Action, Maggie’s List, U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin

Kevin McGovern

Kelli Stargel

  • Republican
  • Lakeland, age 56
  • Website
  • Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: The Conservative Hero Who Delivers Results
  • Endorsements: Sheriff Grady Judd, Florida Family Council President John Stemberger, Parental Rights Florida Coordinator Patti Sullivan

Jackie Toledo

News links

  • PAC supporting Laurel Lee gets $1 million infusion – Florida Politics, July 19
  • Misleading ads tied to PAC supporting Stargel – Florida Politics, Aug. 4
  • Five Republicans vie to be candidate for Florida’s new 15th Congressional district – The Ledger, Aug. 11

District 15, Democrats

Most of the attention on the Democratic side of this race has gone to Alan Cohn, a former TV reporter who has run for Congress twice before, and Eddie Geller, a video producer and comedian who far outpaced the other candidates in fund-raising as of the end of June.

Gavin Brown

Alan Cohn

  • Democrat
  • Tampa, age 59
  • Website
  • Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: Independent Leadership for Florida
  • Endorsements: Former Governor/Congressman Charlie Crist, Former Florida CFO Alex Sink, Former Education Commissioner Betty Castor, State Attorney Andrew Warren, Former Florida House Majority Leader Samuel Bell III, U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Lois Frankel, and six labor unions

Eddie Geller

  • Democrat
  • Mango, age 38
  • Website
  • Facebook | Twitter
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: He’s Gonna Fight for You
  • Endorsements: Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, Florida Democratic Disability Caucus, Progressives for Democracy in America (Central Florida Chapter)

Cesar Ramirez

William VanHorn

News links

  • Open District 15 seat draws five ambitious Democrats – The Ledger (subscribers only), Aug. 10
  • Cohn raises $400,000 in third quarter – Florida Politics, Oct. 5

District 18, Republicans

Reapportionment put Scott Franklin, a former Lakeland city commissioner, into District 18; he is currently completing his first term in Congress. There are no Democratic candidates in the race.

Scott Franklin (incumbent)

  • Republican
  • Lakeland, age 58
  • Website
  • Facebook | Twitter | YouTube
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: Conservative for Congress
  • Endorsements: Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, as well as sheriffs in Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Okeechobee, Hardee and Highlands counties

Kenny Hartpence

Jennifer Raybon

  • Republican
  • Clermont, age 54
  • Website
  • Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn
  • Campaign finance
  • Campaign slogan: Together we will restore America
  • Endorsements: Patriots for Freedom PAC, ‘Constitutional’ Sheriff Richard Mack, filmmaker/speaker Trevor Loudon, Polk County Voters’ League

Wendy Schmeling

Eddie Tarazona

News links

Incumbent Franklin faces four opponents in Republican primary — The Ledger, Aug. 7

SEND FEEDBACK, corrections or news tips:


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Barry Friedman

Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

Leave a comment

Your Thoughts On This? (Comments are moderated; first and last name are required.) Cancel reply