Ronda Storms’ surprise decision to leave the Florida Senate has touched off a Republican scramble in eastern Hillsborough County, with two — and possibly three — experienced lawmakers preparing to run in an August primary, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.
Former Senate President Tom Lee opened a campaign account Tuesday, and Rep. Rachel Burgin quickly indicated she will also seek to replace Storms in Senate District 24. Rep. Rich Glorioso also said Tuesday morning he will make a decision Wednesday or Thursday about whether to enter the race.
Glorioso, who has been planning to run for Hillsborough County supervisor of elections, said Storms’ announcement Friday that she would forgo a potential reelection campaign to run for county property appraiser came “out of nowhere.” He said all but one precinct of his House district is included in Senate District 24.
“I am still looking at it (running for the Senate) very seriously,” the Plant City Republican told the News Service.
The newly drawn District 24 includes almost all of eastern Hillsborough County, with the exception of a small portion at the southern end of the county. With Storms’ exit, Hillsborough likely will have at least two competitive Senate races during the Aug. 14 Republican primary.
In neighboring District 17, incumbent Sen. Jim Norman appears likely to face a primary challenge from Rep. John Legg and former Rep. Rob Wallace. That district includes northwestern Hillsborough County and a large part of southern Pasco County.
Lee, of Brandon, served in the Senate from 1996 to 2006, including the final two years as Senate president. An unsuccessful candidate for state chief financial officer in 2006, Lee pushed as Senate president for more long-range financial planning and also took controversial steps to require lobbyists to disclose information about their income.
Burgin, of Riverview, has been in the House since 2008 and earlier served as a legislative aide for former Rep. Trey Traviesa. She has been most prominent in the House for sponsoring bills aimed at restricting abortions, such as a bill this year that would have included requiring a 24-hour waiting period. The bill did not pass the Senate.
While Glorioso hasn’t made a final decision, University of South Florida political-science professor Susan MacManus said a primary between Lee and Burgin would offer sharp contrasts for voters.
MacManus described such a primary as the “old guard and the young guard” and also said Burgin would be more conservative than Lee on social issues.
“You’ve got generational, ideological and gender (differences),” MacManus said.
Glorioso has represented District 62 in the House since 2004 and cannot run for re-election this fall because of term limits. While in the House, he has chaired budget committees overseeing justice spending and transportation and economic development, and also has played a high-profile role on issues related to foster children.