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Lee, Burgin tout local backing

Posted Jun 4, 2012 by William March

Updated Jun 4, 2012 at 04:05 PM

Tom Lee of Brandon, a former state Senate president, has released a list of endorsements from seven high-level local Republican leaders including former Gov. Bob Martinez in the East Hillsborough state Senate race.

Meanwhile, his opponent in the primary, Rep. Rachel Burgin, touts a list of more than 150 “grass-roots” backers, almost none of them prominent in politics.

The competing lists of backers illustrate Lee’s dominant reputation in GOP politics in Republican-dominated East Hillsborough, compared to Burgin’s strong suit, a large family with a network of connections in the area including church and home-schooling communities.

Lee’s endorsers are almost a local GOP who’s-who: former Gov. Bob Martinez, Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, former legislator and Sheriff Malcolm Beard, Sheriff David Gee, Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan, County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, and county Tax Collector Doug Belden.

They emphasize his experience as a former Senate president.

“I’ve seen him deliver on behalf of our area as a strong supporter of local law enforcement officers and conservative causes,” said Gee.

Josh Burgin, Rachel’s brother and a campaign spokesman, said Burgin’s backers are “folks that have a relationship to Rachel, largely through her extended family—obviously not your keynote political types, but folks who have relationships within their churches, their schools and businesses.”

He said the list makes it “very plain that Rachel’s candidacy is about the people of District 24, citizens who may not be plugged into politics but want to see government work better.”

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