The potential return of former Senate President Tom Lee to the legislature has become the highest profile primary to be decided on August 14th. The suburban Tampa area seat that Lee formerly represented in the Senate was thrown open by Rhonda Storms decision to run for Property Appraiser thanks to a scandal.
Lee’s record was reliably if not completely conservative when he was serving previously. As Senate President Lee butted heads ever so often with Jeb Bush but more often than not towed the line. But Lee despite his own checkered history decided to take on lobbying reform, a worthy cause in a city that needed desperately to be cleaned up.
Now as Lee is trying to return t0 the Senate, lobbyists are taking action int0 their own hands.
Despite almost universal support from the Republican hierarchy in the state, the biggest supporters of the entrenched GOP majority have their knives out for Lee, and they are not being subtle about it.
Republicans and Tallahassee lobbyists have become inseparable over the past fifteen years. But the family feud in Senate District 24 threatens to do more than hurt feelings- it could rupture the wounds within the GOP’s super majority in Tallahassee wide open.
The hit piece from the American People Committee focuses on Tom Lee’s personal family and marital history and likens the former Senate President to Hillsborough County property appraiser Rob Turner, who is currently embroiled in a pornography scandal. Ironically this Senate seat is open because incumbent Rhonda Storms decided to challenge Turner for Property Appraiser.
Lee’s primary opponent Rachel Burgin is one of the dimmest bulbs to serve in the state legislature in the modern era. Considering the number of lightweights the GOP majority has produced, it takes something very unique to stand out. Yet, Burgin has proven to be perhaps the least capable lawmaker in the entire state and the fact that so many Tallahassee insiders would go to great lengths to back her candidacy speaks loudly about the wounds Lee caused when Senate President.
The only reason to support Burgin for Senate would be if you want to see some sort of theocracy imposed on the state of
Florida. Otherwise, common sense conservatives, of which their are still many in the Republican Party (but perhaps not in the western portions of Hillsborough County which are among the most conservative areas in the peninsula) ought to all be backing Lee. But the fact that this is a competitive primary speaks volumes to control lobbyists have asserted over Florida Government under GOP rule.
Progressives should keep an eye on this primary. Lee is no shining knight, but a Burgin victory would be an indication that lobbyist control over the Florida GOP and state government is complete and unbreakable. The results of such a statement would be catastrophic for Florida’s citizens.