While political figures around the Tampa Bay area hang in suspense over state Sen. Tom Lee's decision about his political future, he came a step closer Tuesday to a run for Congress.
Lee, a Republican from Thonotosassa, announced last week that he won't run for state chief financial officer, as he has been planning to do, citing family concerns. He confirmed he was instead considering running for the Congressional District 15 seat being vacated by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland.
Lee hasn't announced a decision on that race, but on Tuesday, he filed a letter with the state Division of Elections withdrawing as a fundraising solicitor for his political committee, The Conservative.
One possible reason for Lee to do that: It would present legal hurdles for a candidate for federal office to solicit money for a state political committee, which routinely accepts corporate and large-dollar contributions not allowed under federal law.
That doesn't necessarily mean Lee has made a decision. Friends say he's still deciding, with qualifying for the office starting Monday and running through May 4.
If Lee chose not to run for the Congressional seat, he could reinstate himself as a solicitor for his committee simply by filing a form, said Tallahassee elections law expert Ron Meyer.
Meyer said Lee's status as a solicitor for the committee would have no impact on a race for a Hillsborough County commissioner's seat, another option Lee has considered.
Lee, who has almost $2.4 million in The Conservative, couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
State Rep. Ross Spano of Dover and former state Rep. Neil Combee of Polk City have both filed in the Republican primary for the seat, along with several other candidates.
But Lee would be a formidable primary competitor.
Rep. Ross's withdrawal, meanwhile, has given new hope to underdog Democrat Andrew Learned of Valrico.
Meanwhile, state Reps. Shawn Harrison of Tampa and Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills are both interested in running for Lee's state Senate seat if he leaves it open. If that happened, there'd be a scramble for candidates for their state House seats.