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Wilton Simpson endorses Danny Burgess to succeed Tom Lee

Simpson’s nod means the GOP nomination is likely his, if he wants it.

Former Rep. Danny Burgess looks like the likely successor for Sen. Tom Lee should Republicans hold onto the seat in 2020.

Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson and Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo endorsed Burgess for Senate District 20 just hours after Lee announced he was resigning effective Nov. 3, which is Election Day.

“Now more than ever, we need proven leadership in Tallahassee working for Florida’s families,” Simpson said. “Danny has spent his entire adult life protecting the American people, fighting for Floridians and honoring our commitments to veterans who have bravely served our nation. I am proud to stand with Danny and look forward to doing great things for the people of Florida with him in the Senate.”

Burgess formerly served in House District 38 in Pasco County, which overlaps Senate District 20. Gov. Ron DeSantis tapped Burgess to head the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs in 2018.

“Danny is a true servant leader with a proven ability to effectively deliver on behalf of Floridians,” Passidomo said. “Time and again, he has demonstrated a keen ability to deliver for the people he serves and would be a welcomed addition to the Florida Senate.”

Burgess currently also serves as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves.

The shuffle comes after Florida Politics reported Thursday Lee was considering resigning to run for Hillsborough County Clerk of the Courts, which would have required him to resign his Senate seat.

Lee hasn’t decided on a local bid yet, but he resigned Friday, paving the way for him to still file for the Clerk’s race if he chooses.

His departure opens the Senate District 20 seat, which was not up for reelection this year.

Other names floated as possible successors included former Sen. Dana Young, Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White, Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore and Plant City Mayor Rick Lott. Rep. Jamie Grant had been rumored as a contender, but has said he won’t run if Burgess does.

With a nod from top GOP leaders, though, it seems unlikely another candidate would attempt to ruffly the establishment feathers.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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