With a month to go until the primary, in SD 24 -- one of the most closely watched legislative primaries in Florida -- former Florida Senate President Tom Lee has the financial edge over Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Tampa.
Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, announced in late May that she would not seek another term in the Senate and would instead offer a primary challenge to Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner. With Storms sudden announcement, Lee and Burgin scrambled into the race for the Senate seat which represents the eastern parts of Hillsborough County.
First elected to the Senate in 1996, Lee represented the area in the Senate for a decade, including serving his last two years as president of that chamber. He was the Republican nominee to run for state CFO in 2006, but came up short against Democrat Alex Sink. Sink took 53 percent of the popular vote, making her the only member of her party to serve in the state Cabinet at that time.
Despite being in the race for little more than a month in the second quarter of 2012, Lee has garnered the support of much of the state Republican leadership which has helped his impressive fundraising haul. From the end of May until the first week of July, Lee raised more than $199,500 and kept his cash in the bank, spending less than $12,250. This leaves him an impressive war chest with more than $187,000 to draw upon before the Aug. 14 primary.
But Burgin, who has represented parts of Hillsborough County since winning her current House seat in 2008, is drawing upon funds she had been planning on using to run for a third term in the Florida House. In the second quarter of 2012, Burgin brought in more than $50,000 and spent more than $29,500. In the 2012 election cycle so far, Burgin has raised more than $122,000 and spent more than $65,000 -- leaving around $57,000 in the bank in the final weeks before the primary.
Whoever emerges from the Republican primary will face retired federal investigator Elizabeth Belcher who has been active in the community for three and a half decades. Belcher also jumped in the race after Storms announced that she would forego running for re-election. In the month that she has been in the race, Belcher raised $6,600 and spent more than $3,000.
The Republican nominee and Belcher will also be facing Randolph Link, a write-in candidate, come November.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.