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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

March: Hillary Clinton to make Tampa her Florida headquarters

22

April

During the run-up to the Florida primary, the Hillary Clinton campaign had several Florida field offices, including spaces in Ybor City, Jacksonville, Orlando and West Palm Beach.

But while Clinton's Florida finance operation will continue to be headquartered in South Florida, her state headquarters is expected to be in Tampa, local party insiders are saying. They said it's not a done deal, but locations are being scouted.

She would be following the lead of Barack Obama, who kept his state headquarters in Ybor from 2004 through the 2012 campaign.

Local backer and spokeswoman Ana Cruz said only that the campaign "is looking at multiple office locations around the state including Tampa." 

Tampa's advantages: central location, good airport, anchor of the famed Interstate-4 corridor and the largest media market in the state. 

Tom Lee's dilemma

State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, faces a difficult decision about his political future, and must make it soon: run for re-election to the Senate, run for a statewide office or drop back to a Hillsborough County commissioner race? 

Insiders say Lee has promised a decision by the end of the month, but one can't come too soon for people like local state Reps. Ross Spano and Dan Raulerson, who have said they're interested in the Senate seat if Lee vacates it. Qualifying is June 20-24. 

Normally candid and accessible to the press, Lee didn't respond to a week of calls and text messages for comment. He could easily win Senate re-election, but might not want to.

First, after redistricting, he'd have to move into the 20th district or face a tough primary against Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano. Lee, a homebuilder, owns properties throughout eastern Hillsborough County and wouldn't have to move far. 

But he's also losing his powerful appropriations chairmanship to Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, with no guarantee of a top post under incoming Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart. 

Lee ran unsuccessfully for chief financial officer in 2006, and has said he might be interested again. But he wouldn't have an unimpeded path. Prominent Republican and wealthy homebuilder Pat Neal of Lakewood Ranch is considering running. Neal could put a seven- or eight-figure sum of personal money into the race if he chose, and said if he runs, he'll spend "whatever it takes to win."

That leaves the alternative some insiders consider most likely: the county commission seat being vacated by Kevin Beckner. Lee would join a Republican primary that includes former commissioner and state senator Jim Norman and Tim Schock. As a commissioner, Lee could stay home with his wife, who's a judge, and their two young children.

Lee has let it be known he thinks there should be an alternative in the race to Norman, who left his Senate seat facing ethics complaints. Neal, who's been making the rounds of party gatherings, said Lee "is under tremendous pressure from fellow Republicans to run for the county seat" to replace Norman.

It would also be a financially beneficial move for Lee. Under the state employee pension system, his 14 years in the low-paid Senate seat could be combined with the $95,782 commissioner's pay, resulting in a generous pension.

Local Dems show signs of life

The Hillsborough County Democratic Party has raised $107,297 so far in the 2016 election cycle.

That's not huge. By comparison, the Sarasota County Democrats attracted attention with a whopping $378,992, and the Hillsborough County Republicans have raised $203,111.

But it's a lot better than the long-dysfunctional Hillsborough Dems have been doing. At this point in the 2014 election cycle, they had pulled in $32,520, and in the 2012 cycle, the most comparable year, a pathetic $18,987.

One reason: The local party now has a "victory fund" for local candidates, so donors feel their money will help those candidates rather than a party structure in which they may have little confidence.

Another: Last year, Alex Sink, public relations executive Tom Hall and others founded a group called The Hillsborough Society, with about 30 members who each give $1,000 a year to help the local party and local candidates.

[Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2016 4:02pm]

    

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