Former state Senate President Tom Lee of Brandon will seek to return to the Senate, running for the seat being vacated by Ronda Storms as she jumps into the property appraiser’s race, Lee announced Friday, reports William March.
Lee’s dominant name in eastern Hillsborough County politics could scare off other ambitious Republicans.
Lee said he has been talking to state Senate leaders for a year or more about the possibility of running for Storms’ Senate seat, well before the current turmoil arose.
When it became known Friday that Storms would leave her seat, he said, he got calls from Senate and state GOP leaders about it.
Lee comes from a prominent east county family and runs the homebuilding company Sabal Homes, built by his father, Jim Lee, also an active Republican. Tom Lee served in the state Senate from 1996-2006, the last two years as Senate president.
In the Senate, he developed a reputation as an independent thinker who occasionally clashed with lobbyists and inveighed against their influence. He once even exchanged shoves with a lobbyist during a disagreement on legislation just off the Senate floor.
He also clashed at times with other powerful Republicans, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, though he and Bush ended up as allies.
Lee ran unsuccessfully for chief financial officer against Alex Sink of Tampa in 2006 and has been out of electoral politics since.
A University of Tampa graduate, Lee is married and has two children from a former marriage.