Dennis Ross is the rare example of a politician who was rewarded for voting with his principles and its helped him move up to Congress.
In 2007, Ross was one of two legislators in Tallahassee who voted against Citizens Property Insurance. Sticking to his free-market principles, Ross argued that the state government shouldnt be competing with private insurers. Ross paid the price for his fiscal conservatism as his fellow Republicans stripped him of his committee chairmanship.
Ross was no political newcomer when he led the hopeless fight against Citizens. In 1982, he started his political career as an aide to Dennis Jones, a longtime Republican legislator then serving in the House. Becoming one of the leading attorneys in Central Florida, including serving as an in-house counsel to Walt Disney World, Ross moved up the local Republican ranks, eventually becoming chairman of the Polk County GOP. After a failed bid for a Florida Senate seat in 1996, Ross was elected to the Florida House in 2000 after Adam Putnam decided to run for Congress.
Despite losing his chairmanship in Tallahassee, Ross had the last laugh. After facing term limits in 2008, he made plans to run for Congress in 2010, once again following in Putnams wake. Ross got in the race early and was able to hold off John Lindsey in the primary. Despite a credible Democratic opponent in Lori Edwards and a threat from the right in Randy Wilkinson running on the tea party line syphoning off conservative support, Ross scored an impressive win.
Fittingly enough, given his fight in Tallahassee, Ross sits on the Financial Services Committee, the Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee and the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee. Ross has generally stuck with his free-market principles on fiscal matters and has been recognized by the National Taypayers Union and other conservative groups.
Still, as was the case in Tallahassee, Ross isnt easily led and has no problems with taking on the Republican leadership. Ross was very critical of Republican efforts during the recent federal shutdown battle and questioned the wisdom of linking the shutdown to defunding Obamacare.
With 2014 looming, Ross wont have as easy a time as he did in the last election cycle. He faced no opposition in 2012. That isnt the case this time out. Alan Cohn, a former television investigative reporter, is already running hard as a Democrat and has shown no hesitation in taking shots at Ross.
Ross starts off 2014 as the favorite and his district is based around Polk County which has generally rewarded Republicans. But this wont be a cakewalk since Cohn has enough polish and skills to make Ross work for it.
While he has been active in Florida politics for more than 30 years, Ross is only 54. Hes set to remain a force for some time to come.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.