Joe Henderson: Tom Lee’s withdrawal from Hillsborough Clerk’s race is the right call
Tom and Laurel Lee prepare for their next chapter as she becomes Secretary of State

Tom and Laurel Lee
Lee's top priority is his family.

Tom Lee’s interest in running for Clerk of the Circuit Court of Hillsborough County made a lot of sense. Withdrawing from the race, as he did Monday, made even more sense.

That’s not because he couldn’t have done a good job in that position. Lee has long talked about putting his experience from 18 years as a state legislator to work in his home county.

But his wife, Secretary of State Laurel Lee, lives in Tallahassee with their 18-year-old son, Brandon, and 7-year-old daughter, Faith.  That was a huge red flag about this venture from the start. You can’t run one of the most important offices in Hillsborough if your heart is in Tallahassee.

So, after preliminary papers on Friday to run, he decided Sunday afternoon that couldn’t happen.

“After I talked to (Laurel), I couldn’t take a job that would take me away from my family,” Lee said. “I’d have to get in a car on Friday if I wanted to see my family. She supported me for years in my public service, so it was my turn to support her. Something had to give.

“It was just a question of whether I should anchor myself to this position in Hillsborough County or do what’s best for her. She has a lot more runway in her career. It was time to maximize what opportunities she will have.”

After Lee announced his resignation from the state Senate recently, speculation quickly spread about a run for the Clerk’s office. He didn’t deny that he considered running, but he also said then that his decision to leave the Senate with two years left in his term had nothing to do with running for Clerk.

“I did choose my words very carefully in all that,” he said. “I felt like if my goal was to improve my family’s quality of life and play a bigger role in my children’s lives, then we all needed to be in one place.”

Lee continues to have business relationships and friendships in Hillsborough, and, he said, “those are important to me. You have to set priorities. You can’t serve two masters.”

And right now, his family is the top priority.

Joe Henderson

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.


  • steven m grabarczyk

    June 8, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    Good for Hillsborough CO to rid themselves of this idiot

  • Clif Curry

    June 8, 2020 at 10:34 pm

    The Florida Senate and Hillsborough County has lost a true statesman. Good luck Tom and Laurel! See you in Tallahassee for football season[hopefully]

Comments are closed.


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