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2020/2022

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.”

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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 Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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