The News Service of Florida reports that Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, is finally acknowledging what everyone has long suspected: he’s running for chief financial officer.
So what if, by challenging Jimmy Patronis, Lee will be undermining his relationship with Gov. Rick Scott.
Here’s the NSF item:
Adding to the political drama of the 2018 legislative session, Sen. Tom Lee said he is getting ready to launch his second campaign for a state Cabinet seat.
Lee, a Republican who served as Senate president during the 2005 and 2006 sessions, ran for state chief financial officer in 2006, losing to Alex Sink, a Democrat. He is now raising money and lining up consultants for another bid for the chief financial officer’s post.
“My plan is to move forward with a campaign next year,” Lee said in an interview this week as he attended meetings in Tallahassee as a member of the state Constitution Revision Commission. “It’s the right time for me.”
Lee said the “last piece of the puzzle” is making sure he will have enough financial support for a successful Cabinet bid, which he estimates will cost some $10 million, including a primary campaign that could exceed $5 million.
Lee, a home builder from Hillsborough County, said his fund-raising has been good, with his political committee, The Conservative, reporting about $1.8 million in cash on hand through Sept. 21.
Lee likely will face Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis in the August Republican primary. Patronis has not formally announced a campaign but is expected to run and is raising money through a political committee.
Patronis was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in June to replace Jeff Atwater, who left the Cabinet to assume an administrative post at Florida Atlantic University.
Lee said he did not expect the campaign to alter his relationship with Scott, whom Lee supports.
“I talked with the governor very early on about my desire to run,” Lee said. “I love the governor, and I think he has done a good job and I will continue to support him. I wouldn’t expect it to change a thing.”
Lee will be one of several high-profile lawmakers running for statewide offices next year, potentially complicating the annual legislative process.
In addition to Lee’s Cabinet race, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is running for governor, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, is also interested in making a gubernatorial bid.
Also, Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, and Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, are running for agriculture commissioner, and Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville, is running for attorney general.
Lee said political agendas present “challenges,” but he said it will be no different than 2006 when he was running for the Cabinet as the Senate president and two top Democratic senators were running for governor and another Cabinet seat.
“I’ve seen this movie before. It requires a lot of discipline on behalf of the members to separate policy from politics,” Lee said. “It can be done, but it’s definitely an added dynamic.”