Former Lake Wales City Commissioner Kris Fitzgerald has filed to run for the US Congress from Florida’s 15th district, which includes a portion of Polk and Pasco counties and much of Hillsborough County.
Fitzgerald’s formal announcement of candidacy is expected to come in a news conference next week. Her filing makes her the first challenger to Republican incumbent Laurel Lee, who won the seat only last year.
Fitzgerald met with LakeWalesNews.net for an exclusive interview over coffee at Cocoa Cakes Studio in downtown Lake Wales. Born and raised in Lake Wales, Fitzgerald attended the University of South Florida in Tampa, and is very familiar with the district, having lived there for 12 years. She told LakeWalesNews.net that she is “in the process of relocating to Hillsborough County.”
Fitzgerald has Bachelor’s degrees in both Criminology and Psychology, and Master’s degrees as a mental health counselor and business administration. Fitzgerald, a Democrat, also served in the US Air Force as security police officer.
“I bring a well-rounded knowledge base to apply to different facets of (the work in) Congress,” Fitzgerald said. “I understand the needs, not just here in Florida. I would advocate for mental health care, education, veterans, and seniors,” she said.
“People are dealing with family mental health challenges, or perhaps the criminal justice system. I think all four of those degrees will be helpful. I think that’s a great way to bring a wholistic approach to Congress,” she added.
Florida’s 15 Congressional district includes the western portions of Lakeland, all of Plant City, and the northern and eastern portions of Tampa and its suburbs.
She was elected to the Lake Wales city commission in March of 2020, but was suspended only two months later. During the 16 months between her arrest and acquittal her mental health counselor’s license remained suspended, leaving her without work.
As a single mother, she was forced to give up her leased residence and move outside her district, which made her ineligible to reclaim her seat on the commission. She describes her teenage daughter as “the love of my life,” saying that the disruption was a challenge for her, but that she’s doing great now, playing on her school basketball team. “She’s excelling in school, and she has been able to help other teens who have dealt with something similar,” Fitzgerald said.
She appeared relaxed and confident as she approaches this new challenge. A recent medical condition caused her to lose some of her hair, so she simply shaved the rest, according to her newly-retained campaign manager Shawna Vercher.
“She likes it. It’s how she feels most empowered,” Vercher said.