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State Senate | District 24

Tom Lee, a former state Senate president seeking a return to the Legislature, handily defeated state Rep. Rachel Burgin in a bruising Republican primary. Now he faces Democrat Elizabeth Belcher, a first-time political candidate who says her No. 1 priority is state ethics reform. Also in the race is Randolph Link, a write-in candidate from Plant City. Jodie Tillman, Times staff writer

Elizabeth Belcher, 62

Retired IRS investigator

Tom Lee, 50

Home builder

A criminal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service for 27 years, she retired in 2007. Her cases included tax fraud and money laundering. She helped establish the Seffner Mango Library and is treasurer of the Hickory Hill Special Dependent Tax District. She is one of several community activists who raised questions about the Regent, the publicly financed events center in Riverview that had to repay the county.Experience He's vice president of Sabal Homes of Florida Inc. He was a state senator from 1996-2006, the Senate president for the last two years. He lost a bid for state chief financial officer in 2006. He is a past president of the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce; charter member of the Brandon '86 Rotary Club; member of the board of directors of A Kid's Place and vice chairman of the Tampa Bay History Center.
Bachelor of arts, Washington University in St. Louis, 1972EducationBachelor of science, University of Tampa, 1984
Wants legislation requiring lawmakers who introduce budget items to then list them on the state website. Also wants to require legislators to put their names beside line items they introduce.What would be your top priority in the Legislature?Improve the economy. Says there's no one piece of public policy to solve this. "It will take a mosaic of high-performing schools, an educated workforce, safe streets, adequate infrastructure, a business-friendly climate and the preservation of our environment."
"Save taxpayers' money by stopping the bribery to the large corporations to relocate to Florida. Take that money and direct it to small local businesses already here to expand and to help start new local businesses."What else can the Legislature do to grow Florida's economy and create more jobs?Maintain low taxes and have "minimal regulation requirements" in order to attract new businesses. At the same time, don't hurt quality of life (the environment and education) to jump-start the economy.
Put solar panels on all new state government buildings. Foster public-private partnerships to build solar farms on unusable land, such as brownfields. As the state removes vehicles from inventory, replace them with energy-efficient vehicles and hybrids. Revenue generated by sale of electricity would go toward education and also for solar panel grants to homeowners. How would you change the state's energy policy?"Energy reliability and affordability is often overlooked as a critical component of Florida's infrastructure. Fuel source diversity and environmental concerns need to be balanced and monitored; disaggregation programs that reduce the reliance on centralize power production and a transmission grid should be explored."
Yes. "Per the Constitution, 60 percent of all revenues received by the state must be spent on education at all levels. The lottery funds are supposed to be in addition to the 60 percent — not make up the shortfall. In addition, if our Legislature would spend money on higher education instead of airplane hangars, polytechnic schools and hurricane shelters/community centers, etc., the state would have adequate funds to support public education."Should the state spend more on public education?"Yes, but Florida has been through an extraordinary economic downturn, sacrifice has been across the board and the education system cannot be exempted. Moreover, Florida needs to do a better job connecting education expenses to employment opportunities. The trajectory of Florida's recovery is unlikely to produce a dramatic surge in state revenues anytime soon. We must embrace the need to do more with less and, to the extent possible, fund outcomes over process."
$1.1 millionAssets$3.6 million
Married to Jay, no children PersonalMarried to Laurel, three children

About the job: Newly drawn Senate District 24 is a mix of suburbs, small businesses and farms stretching east of Interstate 75 to Plant City. It's largely composed of conservative east Hillsborough but also includes New Tampa and areas near the University of South Florida. Senators serve four-year terms, earning $29,697 a year.

Florida Senate District 24: Elizabeth Belcher (D), Tom Lee (R)

Tom Lee, a former state Senate president seeking a return to the Legislature, handily defeated state Rep. Rachel Burgin in a bruising Republican primary. Now he faces Democrat Elizabeth Belcher, a first-time political candidate who says her No. 1 priority is state ethics reform. Also in the race is Randolph Link, a write-in candidate from Plant City.

Florida Senate District 24: Elizabeth Belcher (D), Tom Lee (R) 10/17/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 2:50pm]
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