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Rachel Burgin enters race against Tom Lee for Ronda Storms' state Senate seat

TAMPA — Add another twist to the Hillsborough County political shuffle.

State Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, formally announced this weekend that she'll run for state Senate, following some heavy speculation over possible candidates for that newly vacated Senate seat.

"The Senate needs true leaders that are willing to take a stand on behalf of the constituents they represent, not just the special interests that may want their vote," Burgin, 29, wrote in a statement. "The people of Florida have told us they want fresh faces, good morals, strong ethics and hard workers in Tallahassee who refuse to participate in politics as usual."

It's the latest move set off by Hillsborough Property Appraiser Rob Turner's admission to the Tampa Bay Times last week that he sent dozens of pornographic emails to his human resources director.

Republican state Sen. Ronda Storms left her re-election campaign Friday to challenge Turner, also a Republican, in the property appraiser's primary race.

Two Democrats — state Rep. Bob Henriquez and real estate broker James DeMio — and no-party-affiliate Rob Townsend are also running for the local office.

Storms' switch opened up her District 24 state Senate seat.

In her campaign announcement, Burgin touted her alignment with Storms' conservative ideologies. Burgin also represents a House district that falls nearly entirely into Storms' Senate district.

Burgin will face serious competition from former state Senate President Tom Lee, also a Republican, who decided Friday to run for Storms' vacated Senate spot.

The race is shaping up as a contest of "old guard versus young guard," said University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus.

Lee's past Senate experience makes it easier for him to raise money, MacManus said. But Republicans may choose to back Burgin as the party pushes for more gender diversity.

The race draws additional interest because of its potential effect on the state Senate presidency in 2016, where the winning candidate could be a key player in the match-up between Republicans Jack Latvala and John Thrasher.

Burgin's exit from her House re-election campaign has prompted Iraq veteran and Republican Joe Wicker to shift his attention from a different House district to seek her seat.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at swang@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2443.

Rachel Burgin enters race against Tom Lee for Ronda Storms' state Senate seat 05/28/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 28, 2012 9:04pm]
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