1. Florida Politics

Sen. Tom Lee calls lieutenant governor's role 'opportunity to serve'

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, sees the job as “a great opportunity to serve the state . . .”
Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, sees the job as “a great opportunity to serve the state . . .”
Published Dec. 15, 2013

It's not exactly a vote of confidence that Gov. Rick Scott's office floated the names of four finalists to be his lieutenant governor and two of them — the Seminole County sheriff and the St. Johns County school superintendent — promptly asked that they be eliminated from consideration.

That leaves two Hillsborough County Republicans identified as finalists, state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and County Commissioner Sandy Murman.

In a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9, Lee made his interest crystal clear.

"It's a great opportunity to serve the state of Florida, and I have a deep affection for this governor and the job he's done," said Lee, a former state Senate president. "Most importantly, I have some chemistry with the governor. I really like this man. I think he's kind of gotten a bad rap here in our state. I think he's doing a good job and he's done what he told people he was going to do."

Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Morgan, and Morgan

As if personal injury lawyer John Morgan didn't already have his hands plenty full advising employee Charlie Crist on his governor's race and leading a push for legalizing medical marijuana, now oldest son Mike Morgan is looking at running for attorney general.

"I share my dad's passion for the legalization of medical marijuana," he told the Buzz. "Pam Bondi is a great family friend and this is nothing personal, I just completely disagree with her stance on the medical marijuana issue. I believe the attorney general needs to be pro consumer and compassionate, and this is an issue (that) spans both."

Mike Morgan said he is "giving serious consideration to entering the race in the fall," but waiting to see how the Florida Supreme Court rules on challenges to ballot language for the medical marijuana initiative.

"At this point, I am at a wait-and-see," he said.

No consensus in city

Looks like the latest three mayors of St. Petersburg are divided on who should succeed the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman is helping raise money for fellow Democrat Alex Sink to fill the Pinellas congressional seat.

Former Mayor Rick Baker appears in a TV ad for Republican David Jolly, as well as a mailer that hit mailboxes today: "David Jolly knows Pinellas and has worked to support Congressman Young's many efforts — from industry to tourism to the support of our veterans."

Last week, Mayor Bill Foster sent a fundraising email on behalf of fellow Republican Kathleen Peters: "Kathleen is one of us. She is a Pinellas insider, NOT a Washington insider. I worked closely with Kathleen as our State Representative for Western St. Petersburg and as a fellow mayor of South Pasadena," Foster wrote. "Another reason I support Kathleen is because I believe she is the Republican candidate with the best chance of beating Alex Sink."

CFO's financial edge

The first Democrat to challenge incumbent Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater was a disaster, who quickly dropped out after revelations about his prior bankruptcies. The latest Democrat has his own set of troubles.

William Rankin, a Fort Lauderdale businessman, already has been on the defensive about the accuracy of his resume and recently missed a financial reporting deadline. Now that his November fundraising totals have been posted online, we see there isn't much there: $151.

That's what Rankin raised in cash in November. Of course, that's a six-fold increase from his October haul of $25. He keeps his fledgling campaign afloat using $10,600 he loaned to himself.

Meanwhile, Republican Atwater has $814,756 on hand after raising $235,825 in November.

Fundraising muscle

The race for the 2016 Florida Senate presidency between Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Joe Negron, R-Stuart, appears close and unpredictable. But in the all-important contest of raising money to help win over and elect allies in the state Senate, Negron is crushing Latvala, who would be the first Senate president from Pinellas in 90 years.

Negron's political committee, Treasure Coast Alliance, raised $961,000 in its first month and spent just $742. Top donors included MCNA Health Care Holdings LLC, Florida Power & Light and Coral Gables health care executive Miguel Fernandez, each of which gave $50,000. Fernandez is also a top donor to Scott's Let's Get to Work committee, giving $1 million earlier this year.

Latvala's Florida Leadership Committee has raised $269,000 since mid September, including $145,000 transferred from a prior Latvala committee. Top donors included Bayfront 2011 Development LLC, which wants to bring a resort casino to Miami and gave $30,000, and the public employees union AFSCME, which gave $25,000.

Tia Mitchell contributed to this week's Buzz. Contact Adam C. Smith at asmith@tampabay.com.


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