Retired Navy commander Demetries Grimes enters crowded race for U.S. House District 15

Gary White
The Ledger
Demetries Grimes has filed to fun for the U.S. House in District 15.

A part-time Polk County resident has joined the crowded field in the race for U.S. House District 15.

Demetries Grimes, a retired U.S. Navy commander, has filed to run as a Republican in the district.

J.C. Martin, chairman of the Polk County Republican Party, is serving as Grimes’ campaign manager. Martin said Grimes has homes in Orlando and Poinciana and plans to move into the district when a new congressional map is finalized.

U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Lakeland, currently represents District 15, but the boundaries are expected to change significantly. The district now covers northern Polk County, eastern Hillsborough County and southern Lake County.

Florida is undergoing its once-a-decade redistricting, and District 15 is expected to lose its Polk County segment. Franklin is likely to run in whatever district includes Lakeland, rather than seeking re-election in a District 15 that doesn’t include Polk County.

Whatever happens with redistricting, Grimes will not run against a Republican incumbent, Martin said.

Grimes, 56, is a lifelong Central Floridian and a second-generation Navy veteran, according to his campaign website. He completed seven deployments, two to Afghanistan, and flew more than 100 combat missions from aircraft carriers, his campaign said in a news release.

Grimes has served as a military prosecutor and head judge in enemy combatant trials, the release said. He is a secretary of defense executive fellow and a former White House military aide and served in strategy and leadership roles at the Pentagon and NATO headquarters, the release said.

Return to Congress?:Former U.S. House member Dennis Ross plans to run in new district

Congressional campaign:Challenger nearly matches Rep. Franklin's contributions

Questionable claims:U.S. House candidate Bill Olson's campaign pitches stretch truth

Demetries Grimes

The candidate also has Fortune 100 leadership experience and is a published writer on national security, his campaign said.

In the news release, Grimes said that he considers the Constitution and American freedoms to be “under unprecedented assault from within.” He described himself as a constitutional conservative who supports the Second Amendment and opposes abortion, adopting the phrase “America First,” usually identified with former President Donald Trump.

“As a prosecutor and judge in trials of terrorists in Afghanistan, I’ve looked evil in the eye and have seen its ambition,” Grimes said in the news release. “I see the same hatred for our great nation in the eyes of our radical left elected representatives. They and their destructive agenda must be stopped.”

In the release, Grimes also emphasizes the need for “election integrity,” a phrase many Republicans have adopted in response to Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Former congressman Dennis Ross of Lakeland previously filed to run as a Republican in District 15. Ross served in the U.S. House from 2011 to 2019. State Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, has also entered the race.

Grimes, Ross and Toledo have not yet submitted any quarterly campaign-finance reports.

Brandon resident Eddie Geller — a former comedian making his first run for office — leads Democratic candidates in the race with $183,000 in campaign contributions.

The primary elections will take place Aug. 23.

Florida now has 27 congressional seats and is gaining another because of population growth. The state Legislature adopted a pair of maps in this year’s session that would have moved District 15 to Hillsborough County and created a new District 16 encompassing all of Polk County.

Endorsed by Trump:Polk native Morgan Ortagus at center of Tennessee Congressional fight

State Senate:Former Polk County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson joins Florida Senate race

'Business protection':Polk commissioners to urge governor to veto bill

In an unprecedented action, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office submitted two potential congressional maps during the regular session. Both of the governor’s maps shifted District 15 to the west, with one creating a District 16 covering all of Polk County and the other putting the northern tip of the county in a separate district.

DeSantis vetoed the maps passed by the Legislature, claiming that a North Florida district violates the U.S. Constitution. The Legislature scheduled a special session starting April 19 to develop a new congressional map.

Legislative leaders have said they will not draft their own maps and instead will defer to DeSantis on district boundaries. No matter what map DeSantis ultimately approves, legal challenges are almost certain and the district boundaries could be settled in court.

Gary White can be reached at gary.white@theledger.com or 863-802-7518. Follow on Twitter @garywhite13.