Clearwater native and former actor/comedian Eddie Geller made a splash last week when he announced his candidacy for Florida’s 15th Congressional District (which encompasses parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake Counties) with a campaign ad that invoked a TV sitcom. 

  • Congressional District 15 includes parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake Counties.
  • It’s currently held by Republican Scott Franklin (and Republicans have controlled the seat for decades).
  • Eddie Geller is a former comedian and actor who now wants to serve in Washington.

“It was months in the making because you come out like that and, if it’s not good? It’s going to be bad for me. So I wanted to make sure that it was something that put a smile on people’s faces,” Geller told Spectrum Bay News 9 on Thursday from his Brandon apartment

The ad also inspired campaign donations, apparently. Geller says he received $100,000 in contributions in the immediate 24 hours after the it debuted. (Those figures won’t be confirmed until he files his first report with the Federal Election Commission). 

The District 15 seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Scott Franklin.

After graduating from the University of Florida, Geller went to Southern California to pursue a career in comedy. He acted in some commercials and “had a line in a movie,” but he said it was there that he decided he wanted to use his talents on things that he cared about.

He says while still in L.A. he “fell into the activism world,” working on issues like net neutrality. That translated into producing videos, because he says that he was "never going to be the person that was writing ten-page white papers. That’s not my skill set.”

He then moved to New York and later to Washington, working for progressive groups like before ultimately working for the Democratic National Committee in 2016.  He moved back to the Tampa Bay area several months ago and now lives in Brandon. He says he was inspired to run for office after he saw the riot take place on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

“Seeing folks storming the Capitol, seeing Scott Franklin vote to challenge the election results, then while all of that is happening during the worst pandemic in a century, and Scott Franklin votes against COVID relief. That was the point where I was like, ‘Okay.I want to go back there and throw my hat in,’” he says.

Franklin voted on January 6 to challenge the election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania. He also voted against President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, calling it “socialism in sheep’s clothing.” (A representative from Franklin’s office declined to comment).

Geller, 37, says that millennials like himself as well as his younger cohorts in Generation Z are “terrified” about their future.

“Whether it’s climate change or landing a good job or getting health care, we’re really scared, and we want to see ourselves more represented so we can fight for our future.”

Geller — or whomever the Democrats nominate a year from now for the CD 15 seat — will have a major challenge on their hands to win the general election.

Though it’s been held by Republicans for a generation, the national Democratic Party thought they had a fighting chance of potentially flipping the seat blue a year ago, as then-GOP incumbent Ross Spano appeared to be extremely vulnerable because of campaign finance issues.

Spano was vulnerable it turned out, but that didn't work to the Democrats' advantage. Spano lost in the GOP primary to Franklin last August. Franklin then went on to defeat Democrat Alan Cohn by ten points in the fall. 

And then there’s redistricting, which could make the seat potentially even more challenging for a Democrat, as the lines will be drawn up by Republican legislators.

“Just because it’s tough doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying,” Geller says. “I’m a Democrat and Democrats need to be throwing their hat in there everywhere. I’m doing my part, and hopefully I can make a difference and win this race.”

Geller joins Jesse Philippe as the two Democratic candidates to enter the primary for CD 15, which doesn’t take place for another year. Philippe finished third in the 2020 Democratic primary election for the seat.