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Preventing chaos: Tom Lee is pushing an implementation bill for Amendment 4, saying that it is needed to prevent ‘chaos’ in the system.

Tampa Bay

Tom Lee decides against CFO run

In preparing to run for the state’s Chief Financial Officer job, state Sen. Tom Lee had assembled a staff, game plan and a fundraising committee.

But after waffling for several weeks about officially entering the race, Lee said Thursday family concerns “essentially caused me to re-evaluate my decision to run for CFO in 2018. I came to the conclusion I am not able to handle a statewide campaign at this time, so I won’t be running for CFO.”

He said he had not ruled other political options though, including a potential challenge for the soon-to-be-vacated seat by Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross in CD 15.

Earlier this week, Republican state Rep. Ross Spano announced he would seek that seat after initially filing to run for state Attorney General.

Lee lives in Thonotosassa, which is within the boundaries of the district that covers parts of eastern Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties. He said he had taken calls urging him to run, but declined to say from whom.

As a moderate Republican, Lee said his message could play well in a district that he called “good, fertile ground for Republicans, but not a slam dunk.”

Lee also could run again for his state Senate seat or a spot on the Hillsborough County Commission.

“I can’t really comment on what my plan will be until I’ve had a few more days to think about it,” he said. “I have resources and fundraising ability.”

As far back as last summer, Lee had said publicly on numerous occasions that he intended to run for CFO, a position he has long coveted. But months went by without him formally entering the race, and as the father of a high-school age son, Lee said he grew increasingly concerned about the toll running a statewide campaign would take.

“That’s the most important consideration,” he said.

Lee said the other races he is considering would allow him to spend more time at home.

Lee was expected to provide intense competition in the GOP primary to incumbent Republican Jimmy Patronis. Jeremy Ring is his likely Democratic opponent in the general election.

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I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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