Senate Hopeful Tom Lee Racks Up Endorsements
The former Senate president who's vying for Ronda Storms' seat this fall has received several high-profile endorsements.
He may have been out of politics for six years, but Tom Lee's accomplishments in the Florida Senate have not been forgotten.
The Republican from Brandon, who is vying for Ronda Storms' Florida Senate District 24 seat, has received the critical endorsements of former House Speaker Allan Bense, Senate President-designate Don Gaetz and Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.
The politicians gave Lee high marks for leadership skills and experience.
"The unexpected departure of Sen. Ronda Storms leaves her community and her district in need of strong leadership," said Gaetz in his endorsement statement. "In my view, Tom Lee is that strong leader.
Bense was equally effusive in his endorsement statement.
“I served as Speaker of the Florida House for two years while Tom served as Senate President alongside Gov. Jeb Bush. In those years, Tom Lee led the Senate with the honesty, virtue and character that Floridians should expect – and too rarely get – from legislative leaders.
They not only noted Lee's political successes but his personal ones running the family-owned home construction company, Sabal Homes.
“Tom is a determined leader and a fellow businessman who knows that leadership is about solving problems, not talking about them," said Bense.
"Senator Lee grew up and has spent his life in the community he seeks to represent," said Gaetz. "He knows firsthand the struggles and successes of being a small business owner. His beliefs reflect the conservative values and independent thinking of his neighbors."
In the meantime, Lee has just released a television ad touting his conservative, hometown qualities. The ad features him playing basketball with children Reagan and Brandon.
Raised in Brandon, Lee, 50, attended Hillsborough Community College on a golf scholarship before taking over his family's homebuilding business. He first proved his leadership abilities while serving as chairman of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce.
From there, he turned his attention to politics. He was elected to the Senate in 1996 and later served as Senate president in 2005. His political career came to an abrupt end in 2006 when he lost a bid to become the state's Chief Financial Officer to Democrat Alex Sink, despite endorsements from Gov. Jeb Bush and Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings.
The door for him to re-enter politics opened when Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, announced she would not seek re-election. Instead, she is running for Hillsborough County property appraiser.
"It's not the best timing for me. My wife is seven months pregnant and we're remodeling our house," Lee told the Sunshine State News. "But the Senate needs leadership."
Lee is married to Laurel Moore Lee, an assistant United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.
In his press announcement, Lee highlighted his many accomplishments in the Senate.
"Hillsborough County needs an experienced voice in Tallahassee who has delivered on conservative reforms that helped improve Florida’s jobs environment,” Lee said.
He noted that, as a senator, he worked alongside Gov. Jeb Bush to deliver comprehensive litigation reform and pass historic improvements to Florida’s campaign finance and government ethics laws.
Gaetz said he has no doubts about Lee's ability make a political comeback.
"He will hit the ground running at full speed with the knowledge and skill to help build Florida’s future," said Gaetz. "Tom Lee will be a leader in the Florida Senate the moment he walks on the floor.