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Tom Lee continues planning challenge to Jimmy Patronis

As state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis picks up contributions and endorsements, Sen. Tom Lee said he continues to plan a Republican primary challenge for the Cabinet post.

Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican who is prohibited from raising money during the ongoing Legislative Session, said Wednesday he’s got a campaign team in place for a bid to replace Patronis.

“I’m continuing to work in that direction,” Lee, a former Senate president, said. “I’ve got a campaign team. I’ve got a communications director. I built a team, a fundraising staff, I’ve got a team ready to move forward post-Session.”

Lee’s comments came as his political committee, known as The Conservative, was dwarfed in December fundraising by Patronis, a former state lawmaker and Panama City restaurateur who pulled in more than $350,000 during the month.

Patronis, appointed in June by Gov. Rick Scott to replace former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, raised $120,288 for his campaign account and another $245,400 for his political committee, known as Treasure Florida.

Entering the new year, Patronis sat on a combined campaign war chest topping $1.5 million, after opening the political committee in August and his campaign account in November.

Lee, who served as Senate president in the 2005 and 2006 Sessions and ran unsuccessfully for chief financial officer in 2006, raised $13,500 in December for The Conservative. As of Dec. 31, the committee had nearly $2.3 million on hand.

Patronis was recently able to add former Gov. Jeb Bush to his list of endorsements.

Lee said he’s not worried.

“It’s all fair in love and war, we’ll go out and have a conversation with the people of Florida, and typically what happens with Republican primaries in our state is the most conservative candidate wins,” Lee said.

The only announced Democratic candidate for chief financial officer, former Sen. Jeremy Ring, picked up $26,163 in December for his campaign account and $50,000 for his political committee, known as Florida Action Fund. The largest contribution, $20,000, came from a political action committee of the Florida chapter of the International Association of Firefighters.

Ring, a former Yahoo executive, began January with $204,201 on hand in his personal campaign account and $144,986 in the political committee.

The battle for chief financial officer will be one of three Cabinet races on the November ballot. 

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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