Saturday, January 20, 2018
Politics

Tom Lee wins state Senate race in east Hillsborough

BRANDON — Eastern Hillsborough County voters Tuesday sent former Florida Senate president Tom Lee back to the Legislature.

Lee, a 50-year-old Republican, held off Democratic challenger Elizabeth Belcher, taking around 55 percent of votes cast in the Senate District 24 race.

"We're very pleased with the outcome," said Lee, adding that he and fellow county Republicans were nonetheless having a "considerable amount of consternation," however, about the results of other races.

A Brandon home builder, Lee served as a state senator from 1996 to 2006 and was best remembered for insisting that lobbyists be forced to disclose how much money they make and for banning lobbyists from buying meals and gifts for legislators. He was Senate president during his last two years.

Belcher, 62, was making her first run for political office. She is a retired criminal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service. A community activist, Belcher had put ethics reform and accountability at the top of her to-do list.

Early voting results showed Lee ahead only by a small margin. But in the end, Belcher could not match Lee, who had name recognition and high-profile endorsements. He raised nearly $531,000 in the race, compared with Belcher's $13,725.

Back in August, Lee faced a bruising primary race against fellow Republican Rachel Burgin, a state representative who appealed to social conservatives. That race took a bitter turn when Tallahassee lobbyists and political committees joined in the fray.

Lee defeated Burgin by taking roughly 60 percent of the vote.

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