Sen. Tom Lee says he will be running for re-election to return to the Florida Senate later this year, clearing up rumors of his departure from the Florida Legislature.
Lee, who has served in the Florida Senate since 1996 after taking a six year break from 2006-2012, told former Plant City mayor Randy Larson the news Tuesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Larson had intended to run for Lee’s seat if he vacated it.
The Brandon Republican will now run for re-election in Senate District 20, a newly-created district which includes parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk Counties.
Lee’s former district was redrawn last year as a result of a Florida Supreme Court ruling which required state lawmakers to redraw all of Florida’s Senate districts in reapportionment maps.
As a result, Lee ended up in the same district as Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton after the redraw was said and done. The prominent Republican declined to run against Galvano and instead will campaign in a different district this year.
Lee will have to move to run for the position.
Two other Republicans had their eyes on the seat should Lee have vacated it. Reps. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, and Ross Spano, R-Dover. Spano said House members were waiting for Lee to make a decision with “great anticipation.” Both Harrison and Spano live in SD 20.
Lee has had a lengthy and colorful tenure in the Florida Legislature, serving several different districts over the last 20 years. He initially served in the Florida Senate from 1996 to 2002, representing the state’s 23rd Senate District, which covered parts of Hillsborough County and Polk County.
In 2002, following the redrawing of the state’s legislative districts, Lee was moved out of his former district and into the 10th District, which still covered most of his previous territory but added parts of Pasco County.
Lee served as Senate president from 2004-2006. In 2006, he aimed higher and ran to be Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, but lost to Democrat Alex Sink.
After a six-year hiatus, Lee ran again for the Florida Senate in 2012. He assumed office to represent Florida’s 24th district, which contained much of the area he had already represented in previous terms.
From 2014-2016, Lee served in one of the state Legislature’s most important positions as Senate Budget Chair, making him responsible for the Senate version of the state’s massive budget.