Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
Reporter James L. Rosica covers state government from the Tribune's Tallahassee bureau. Email
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Gaetz, Gardiner back Lee
Posted Jun 1, 2012 by William March
Updated Jun 1, 2012 at 06:07 PM
In the first indication of state Senate leadership taking sides in the Republican primary for East Hillsborough’s Senate seat, the two senators next in line for the Senate presidency have both endorsed Tom Lee.
Lee, himself a former state Senate president from Brandon, faces state Rep. Rachel Burgin in the primary, and at least one other candidate, Rep. Shawn Harrison, has said he’s considering the race.
The blessing of legislative leadership in a Florida legislative race carries with it the promise of campaign money. The state Senate president and House speaker, among the most powerful individuals in state government, have an inside track in fundraising among Tallahassee’s business interests.
Gaetz’s nod could carry another advantage for Lee. Gaetz is known as a hard-line conservative, and Burgin has hinted she will try to portray Lee as too moderate.
In a news release, Gaetz praised Lee’s business background and East Hillsborough roots and said as a former Senate president, “Tom brings solid experience and a track record of real accomplishments to Tallahassee. He will hit the ground running at full speed.”
Gardiner, who endorsed Lee in a news release at about the same time, cited Lee’s backing of measures popular with conservatives—abolishing the intangibles tax, a “Choose Life” license plate, legislation requiring parental consent for a minor to get an abortion, and limits on malpractice and personal injury lawsuits.