Photo via U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., announced Wednesday he will not run for re-election in November, joining three other Florida Republicans who plan to leave Congress.
Ross, 58, issued a statement that said he looks “forward to the next chapter of my life which will include, in some way, continued public service.” He represents Congressional District 15, which includes parts of Polk, Hillsborough and Lake counties.
“I never viewed this amazing opportunity as a job or a career,” said Ross, a senior deputy majority whip in the House. “My home has been and will continue to be in Lakeland, Florida. I look forward to returning to the practice of law and to pursuing opportunities to increase civic education for our youth, and young adults, and with that encourage more engagement and participation of future generations in government.”
In making the announcement, Ross joined Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Tom Rooney and Ron DeSantis in deciding against seeking re-election to congressional seats this fall. Like Ross, Ros-Lehtinen and Rooney have not disclosed any other political plans, while DeSantis is running for governor.
Ross’ announcement also came the same morning that U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., shook up Washington by announcing he will not seek another term in November. Ross and Ryan added to a growing list of GOP lawmakers deciding against seeking re-election in what could be a tough mid-year election for the party.
Ross was elected to the Florida House in 2000 and served four terms in Tallahassee. Ross’ congressional website recounts how he was stripped of a state House committee chairmanship in 2007 for voting against a bill that made the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. “the largest property insurer in Florida. For voting against his party and with his free market principles, Dennis was stripped of his chairmanship and many said his career was over.”
But in 2010, Ross was elected to a Central Florida congressional seat that became open when then-U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam decided to run for state agriculture commissioner. Putnam this year is finishing his second term in the Cabinet post and is vying with DeSantis for the Republican nomination for governor.
Ross won his first congressional election by 7 percentage points over Democrat Lori Edwards, but he never faced a close race in getting re-elected three times.
It was not immediately clear Wednesday who might run for the seat, though areas included in Congressional District 15 have been reliably Republican in state and national races.
In a tweet after Ross’ announcement, Democratic strategist Steve Schale acknowledged difficulty for Democrats in the district, but he also likened it to a Treasure Coast district where Democrats hope to unseat U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla.
“I agree it is a tough seat, but keep in mind it is pretty close to par with the Brian Mast seat, which most see as competitive in this cycle,” Schale tweeted. “Big problem for my party there – not much of a bench.”