William March: Tom Lee keeping door open on run for chief financial officer

Lee's announcement of a CFO bid came out during an awkward sequence of events.
Published August 25 2017
Updated August 28 2017

It surprised local politicos when state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, told a writer last week he's decided to run for chief financial officer in 2018 – and did so the day before attending a Brandon event with Gov. Rick Scott and the candidate Scott favors, Jimmy Patronis.

Discussing this week how that awkward sequence of events came about, Lee said he wanted to preserve his chances to mount a campaign even as Patronis appears to be starting one, and wanted to assure potential supporters he isn't backing off.

Scott appointed Patronis to the post in June. Patronis hasn't said whether he'll run for a full term, and didn't respond to messages. But he has opened a political committee for which Scott will headline a fundraiser next month.

Lee said he had previously been "very upfront" with Scott about his interest. "I was organized for this back in March and I've started making some fundraising calls," he said.

But Patronis' committee and the Scott fundraiser could "freeze donors" if Lee didn't signal he was still interested, he said.

The timing, the day before the Scott event, was "spur of the moment" when a writer asked him during a call on another subject, Lee said.

"He asked me and I just was honest about it. Had I answered it incorrectly, it would have damaged my effort" by suggesting to potential supporters that he was backing off, Lee said.

But he acknowledged, "There are no coincidences in politics."

Asked whether he was trying to send Scott and Patronis a signal he won't be scared out of the race, Lee, a former Senate budget chief, noted his own qualifications.

"I know the job, I have a background in finance and a whole history in government finance, insurance policy and things that relate to the CFO. This is very much in my wheelhouse.

"I'm not inviting controversy. I was upfront with people because I like to have clean hands," he said. "The governor has every right to do what he thinks is best for the state."

Asked whether his decision to run for CFO rather than re-election to his Senate seat is final, he said, "I stand by my statement" — that he intends to announce for the race this fall.

Yvonne Fry, Lawrence McClure garner support

In the special election to replace retiring state Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, Yvonne Fry is continuing to pile up endorsements from local political and civic leaders, while Lawrence McClure is getting backing in the form of fundraisers by legislative leaders.

The two will face off in a Republican primary Oct. 10.

In the GOP-leaning District 58 in east Hillsborough, the winner will be favored in the Dec. 19 general election.

Fry this week announced endorsements from county Tax Collector Doug Belden, former Temple Terrace Mayor Joe Affronti and former county school superintendent and Elections Supervisor Earl Lennard.

McClure will hold a funder Sept. 20 headlined by state Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, who's slated to be state Senate president in 2020, along with Reps. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, and Danny Burgess, R.-Zephyrhills.

He'll hold another one Sept. 27 in Miami, hosted by veteran political consultant and lobbyist Steven Marin.

Kimberly Overman files for Hillsborough commission

Businesswoman Kimberly Overman, inspired by the county commissioners' actions on the Confederate memorial downtown, has filed to challenge Republican county Commissioner Sandy Murman in the countywide District 7 race.

Overman is the first Democrat of any prominence to file against any of the three Republican incumbents running in 2018 — Ken Hagan, Victor Crist and Murman. All are jumping to new seats to extend their term limits.

Overman, 59, of Seminole Heights, is a financial planner, originally from New York, who moved here in 1984. She operates an investment advisory firm, The Financial Well, and a co-working space, the Heights Exchange. She has been active in Democratic politics.

"I've been thinking about this for quite some time" because of transportation and land use issues, she said, but, "The icing on the cake was the lack of leadership that was confirmed over the issue of the Confederate war memorial."

Two other Democrats, Charles Davis III and Sky U. White, have also filed in the race.

Contact William March at wemarch@gmail.com