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Tom Lee announces he’s not running for Congress

Lee's Twitter announcement left out one thing: Whether he intends to run for re-election to the Florida Senate.
State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, is considering a run for Congressional District 15. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, is considering a run for Congressional District 15. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published May 3, 2018|Updated May 3, 2018

State Sen. Tom Lee said Thursday he won't enter the race for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland.

Lee's twitter announcement, however, didn't answer the question of whether he intends to run for re-election to his state Senate seat or pursue some other option.

He could not immediately be reached for comment.

In the past, expressing his frustration with Tallahassee, Lee has hinted at considering a Hillsborough County commissioner's race.

Lee tweeted Thursday, "After much thought & discussion with family, I've decided not to run for Congress this year. It would have been an honor to follow in the footsteps of my friend @RepDennisRoss, but right now I feel the need to be closer to home & my family."

The decision means the Republican primary for Ross's seat, representing parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties, is likely to remain highly competitive.

Lee's well-known name in the dominant Hillsborough part of the district, plus his cache of nearly $2.4 million in a political committee, likely would have made him the frontrunner in the primary. In the GOP-leaning district, the primary winner will be the general election favorite.

Republican candidates currently filed or announced include Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover; former Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City; building Sean Harper of Lakeland; Republican Party official Ed Shoemaker of Lakeland; agricultural practices advocate Danny Kushmer of Brandon; and Loretta Miller of Clermont.

Several Democrats have also filed, but the one attracting most attention within the party is tutoring business owner Andrew Learned of Valrico.

The qualifying period ends Friday at noon.

Depending on Lee's future plans, his decision could clear the air for Republicans concerning two state House seats, those of Reps. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, and Danny Burgess, R-Zephryhills. Both had said they would likely run for Lee's Senate seat if he vacated it.

That would leave Republicans to scramble to find candidates on short notice, particularly for Harrison's highly competitive District 63 seat based in North Tampa.

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