Lee begins campaign for State's next CFO

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2005 at 11:25 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - Touting his business experience and promising not to let his political ambitions interfere with his official duties, Senate President Tom Lee began his campaign for chief financial officer Wednesday.
Lee, a millionaire homebuilder and developer who's helped run the business started by his parents, said he has stressed the need for fiscal responsibility and planning as a senator and wants to carry those themes to the CFO's office if elected to replace Tom Gallagher.
''I'll continue Tom Gallagher's effort to bring the state's fiscal and financial house into the 21st century, with newer and better accounting systems, with newer and faster technology, with newer and broader authority,'' he said. ''We will move swiftly to address the continuing challenges of insurance in a state where we now have fewer insurance companies that charge higher rates.''
Lee made his announcement at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce.
He said, if elected, he wants to ''focus a lot more on financial responsibility - that watchdog element of making sure that the public's money is being properly managed and that people aren't being paid for these really large government contracts until the state is sure that it's getting what it bargained for.''
While critics said former House Speaker Johnnie Byrd used his position to help a U.S. Senate campaign that failed last year, and current Speaker Allan Bense cited his responsibilities in declining a U.S. Senate run, Lee vowed the race would not get in the way of his role as Senate president.
Gallagher is leaving office to run for governor.
''Running for higher office as a presiding officer isn't the problem, it's how you run for higher office as a presiding officer,'' Lee said.
''I made a commitment to myself that I was going to separate my own personal political ambitions from my primary responsibility of serving as president of the Senate. I don't intend to mingle the two.''
As part of that, he said he will announce ''higher standards'' on managing his campaign fundraising that will provide ''greater transparency than is required by law.''
Three other Republican lawmakers have opened campaign accounts to run for CFO: Sen. Charles Clary of Destin, Rep. Randy Johnson of Winter Garden and Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland.
Democrats seeking the position include former banker Alex Sink of Tampa and Miami-Dade tax attorney Eric Copeland.
Tom Lee vowed the race would not get in the way of his role as state Senate president.

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