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Lee tops Johnson for GOP candidacy

Expect homeowner's insurance to remain an issue as the Senate president, with Gov. Bush's backing, will now take on the Democrat's Sink.

Published September 6, 2006

Senate President Tom Lee defeated rival Republican state Rep. Randy Johnson in his bid to become the state's next chief financial officer.

Lee, who had one of a handful of coveted endorsements from Gov. Jeb Bush, maintained a comfortable lead over Johnson throughout the evening Tuesday as votes were tabulated across the state.

He'll face Democrat Alex Sink in November.

Lee celebrated early Tuesday evening with his supporters at the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce. "It was a good evening," he said.

Johnson said he was satisfied that his ideas got a hearing and helped shaped the debate in the CFO race. "That was the calling - to forward the concept that insurance for Florida's families is in crisis," he said. He pledged his support to Lee.

On the campaign trail, it was mostly a mild contest, with only an occasional missile coming from the Johnson camp into the Lee headquarters.

Johnson tried to make an issue of Lee's past, pre-public office life as a registered Democrat, and accused him of flip-flopping on issues important to Republicans.

Rather than fire back directly, Lee saturated airwaves with a commercial that featured the popular Republican governor Bush urging voters to pick Lee.

And they did. Lee edged out Johnson in a race that focused almost exclusively on the homeowners insurance mess, and on what the two men would do about it.

In the end, though, voters picked Lee's approach, in which he proposes building on the insurance law the Legislature passed earlier this year, over Johnson's more radical approach to fixing the problem.

Lee's insurance plan is intertwined with the work of the Property and Casualty Insurance Reform Committee, which Lee asked Bush to form after the last legislative session.

Lee, in response to critics, acknowledges that the insurance bill passed in the final hours of the 2006 legislative session didn't do nearly enough, but he says it included necessary first steps in solving the crisis.

Johnson had called for an immediate freeze to insurance rates this year, though state law doesn't allow for rate-hike moratoriums.

He wanted to forbid companies from dropping policies during hurricane season, plus the 30 days before and after, and he wanted the Legislature to comb through the state's maze of insurance regulations and jettison all but the most necessary laws.

[Last modified September 6, 2006, 06:13:59]

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