Alan Cohn, underdog Democratic candidate challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, blasted Ross at a Tampa Tiger Bay Club meeting Friday for being “part of the group that is responsible for the political paralysis in Washington,” and for not having an adequate presence in Hillsborough County.
Cohn, who lives in New Tampa on the western side of Ross’s District 15, noted that Ross has no office in Hillsborough County even though 60 percent of the registered voters in the district live in Hillsborough -- 249,260 of 418,817 registered voters, according to the state Division of Elections.
Ross lives in Lakeland on the eastern side of the district.
The redistricting that took effect in 2012 increased the proportion of Hillsborough residents in what had been a mainly Polk County district, won by Ross in 2010.
“This is a Hillsborough County congressional seat ... and guess what -- my opponent does not have an office in Tampa or Hillsborough County, in the majority of the district,” Cohn said. “If you have a problem with Social Security, or a problem with the VA or the IRS, good luck. No one’s home.”
Ross declined to appear at the Tiger Bay club meeting.
Ross spokeswoman Monica Rodriguez responded, “Usually with a district the size of Congressman Ross’s we would only have one office” in the district.
She noted that Ross’s staff holds “mobile office hours” on the first Tuesday of every month in four locations -- city halls in Plant City and Temple Terrace, and public libraries in Brandon and Lutz.
All congressional districts are roughly the same size by population, but District 15 is more compact than many Florida districts, some of which cover several sparsely populated counties while others are irregularly shaped because of what experts call gerrymandering.
Nonetheless, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, has offices in both counties in her district, Hillsborough and Pinellas, and Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, has offices in his three counties, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas, according to their congressional web sites.