Former Gov. Jeb Bush asked the Tampa Tribune to make a correction to their editorial endorsing Tom Lee for State Senate District 24 in which the newspaper cited Bush’s backing as part of its rationale for recommending Lee.
Bush has not and will not endorse anyone in the face-off between Republican State Senate candidates Lee and Rachel Burgin, reports Kevin Brady of Brandon Patch.
“He’s staying out of that primary,” said Jaryn Emhof, a spokesperson for Bush, whose endorsement could be seen as a major boost to any GOP candidate in a tight primary race.
“We communicated to both campaigns that we are not getting involved several weeks ago,” Emhof said.
The Tampa Tribune had cited Bush’s backing in an editorial endorsing former Senate President earlier this month, much to the ire of state Rep. Burgin. (The online version of the post has been updated.)
Bush’s office has since asked the update their endorsement, Emhof said.
Governor Bush “endorsed me in 2006, when I ran [for state chief financial officer], but there was no endorsement in this race, and I never said there was,” Lee said in an interview with Brandon Patch.
Lee is running against Burgin in the Aug. 14 primary for the seat currently held by Sen. Ronda Storms, who is running for Hillsborough County property appraiser. The primary winner will face Democrat Elizabeth Belcher in the fall for the right to represent Senate District 24, which includes Brandon, Riverview and Bloomingdale.
“Earlier in this race I reached out to Gov. Bush to discuss this campaign, and requested he remain neutral,” Burgin wrote in a Facebook post. “I felt District 24 voters should come to their own conclusions about who to vote for without flashy mailers and political ads featuring his likeness.”
The Bush endorsement controversy is just the latest imbroglio to engulf what is quickly becoming one of the most contentious primary battles in the state.
“My opponent has consistently used Governor Bush’s likeness in mail and TV ads in an effort to imply his endorsement, even though Governor Bush is committed to staying out of this race,” Burgin writes.