Former Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee announces congressional bid

FILE - Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee speaks at pre-legislative news conference on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File) (Steve Cannon, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Former Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee on Tuesday joined a growing Republican field of candidates in the redrawn Congressional District 15, which covers parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties.

Lee stepped down as secretary of state, effective Monday, and her entry into the congressional race came a day after a similar announcement by state Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.

Others who have said they plan to run for the seat include state Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, and former U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican.

In a news release, Lee pointed to the need for “more conservatives” to serve in Washington, D.C.

“Skyrocketing gas prices, government overreach at every turn, a failed commitment to our military and securing our borders, and now, disturbing trends from government thinking they know what is best for our children and families,” Lee said in a statement.

Lee was appointed Secretary of State by Gov. Ron DeSantis in January 2019. Lee previously served as a Hillsborough County circuit judge and is married to former state Senate President Tom Lee. She submitted her resignation last week, with DeSantis appointing state Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, to succeed her.

A redistricting plan approved last month by state lawmakers indicates the redrawn District 15 favors Republicans. In 2020, 50.86% of voters in the district supported former Republican President Donald Trump and 47.74% backed Democratic President Joe Biden.

The redistricting plan continues to face state and federal court challenges.