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Tom Lee is considering a run in Hillsborough County this year — but for what seat?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Tom Lee is facing eviction from the state Legislature this fall due to redistricting, but now says he is seriously eyeing a possible run for office in Hillsborough County in 2016.

The Brandon Republican told FloridaPolitics.com he decide within the next few weeks where his political destination lies, and it could be a county commission seat.

“I’m thinking about my family and my professional interests and trying to get a sense of how those might play into me continuing to spend my life 270 miles away from home,” Lee said Thursday in Tampa Heights, where he participated in a news conference celebrating the $1.2 million appropriation he sponsored in the Senate that will provide for the physical relocation of the Tampa Heights Youth Development & Community Center.

My passion really is my community,” he said. “It’s what motivated me to serve to begin with and the thought of coming home and serving here somewhere locally, whether it be as an appointed official or an elected official is something that’s very appealing to me.”

Lee served this past session as the Senate Appropriations Chairman, and with his years of experience is a respected measure of the Legislature.

But that meant little after a new Senate map drawn up by a voting rights group and approved by a state judge eliminated his Brandon-based Senate District 24 seat, cutting into two separate districts — none that realistically allowed him a path forward for re-election.

His comment that he is taking a good look at his possibilities of serving locally translate into a couple of potential opportunities.

One obvious one would be the Hillsborough County Commission District 6 seat, an open countywide race. There are currently two Republicans running there — former County Commissioner and state Senator Jim Norman, and South Tampa small-business owner Tim Schock.

Norman’s advantage over Schock is his tremendous name recognition after serving in the county from 1992-2010. But Norman also comes with extensive negatives following the 2010 scandal involving a gift home purchased for his wife that led him in part to step down from running for re-election to his senate seat in 2012 (Norman says that he was essentially redistricted out of his seat or he would have run again). Lee’s chances could be strong to win the primary and face the Democrat in that race.

Another elected position that he might consider is Supervisor of Elections, if he were so interested.

Although Democratic incumbent Craig Latimer is considered to be doing a solid job with no obvious issues, he is running unopposed to date. Lee’s strong name ID would make him a serious contender.

Or he could sit things out.

“Whether now’s the right time?” he asked rhetorically on Thursday. “We’re probably going to take the month of April and try to figure that out.”

The deadline to file to run in Hillsborough County is June 20.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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