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It’s official: Tom Lee will run for Hillsborough Clerk of Court

Lee’s entrance ends a week of speculation about his next political move.

Sen. Tom Lee is running for Hillsborough Clerk of the Circuit Court.

Lee filed to run Friday after a week of speculation that he might.

Lee, a Republican, resigned from the Senate last week, effective in November, setting off a whirlwind of political moves in state and local politics that led to a prompt endorsement for former Rep. Danny Burgess as his successor from incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson and Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo.

Now, attention is shifting to Hillsborough County where Lee’s entrance into the race throws a wrench into what had been a virtual two-way race between Democrats.

His bid sets the stage for a potentially costly race for one of Hillsborough’s constitutional offices.

He faces D.C. Goutoufas in the Republican primary and potentially Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, who has filed for the seat but isn’t expected to stay in after qualifying.

Goutoufas hasn’t been aggressively campaigning. He’s raised only a little over $10,000.

Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner and Hillsborough County School Board member Cindy Stuart are running as Democrats for the seat incumbent Pat Frank is vacating to retire.

Significant money has already poured in with Beckner raising nearly $105,000 and Stuart nearly $23,000 in just four months, nearly all of which came in April when she officially announced her campaign.

Murman has about $134,000 of the $193,000 raised so far parked in the race, should she decide to actually run.

As a longtime Senator, Lee will likely have access to a deep well of establishment donors, courted over the course of his more than two decades in Florida politics.

It’s a potential hit for Stuart who has been enjoying contributions from conservative donors who may now swap allegiance to Lee. Evidencing that possibility, it was Stuart who Lee initially reached out to tell her he might run.

“While I appreciate Tom Lee giving me a head’s up about his plans, I doubt Hillsborough voters will be receptive to a Tallahassee insider using special interest money to buy the clerks office. He lost the Hillsborough portion of his district in 2018 and I am confident he will suffer the same fate if he does decide to run for clerk,” Stuart said last week.

Beckner’s campaign is likewise undeterred.

“I’m proud to say that I’ve been on the countywide ballot and won three times in Hillsborough, and while Democrats hold over a 73,000 registered voter advantage in the County I am equally proud of the support I have received from Republican, Independent, along with Democratic voters,” Beckner told Florida Politics.

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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