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PUNTA GORDA, Fla.–Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 12, the governor’s office said. It is effective May 16.
Lee did not specify a reason for her resignation, but thanked the governor for the confidence he placed in her and said it has been “her honor” to work in the state’s administration.
“Together, we protected and grew Florida’s competitive business climate, preserved Florida’s incredible historical resources, supported Florida’s arts and culture community, and strengthened Florida’s election systems,” she wrote in the letter to the governor. “Because of your leadership, the Department of State is stronger and better than when we found it.”
Lee’s departure comes a month before the candidate qualifying period begins for state and congressional races, and amid news reports that she may be considering running for Congress.
After DeSantis took office in January 2019, he appointed Lee as Secretary of State to replace Mike Ertel, who served only 16 days before resigning after photos surfaced of him in blackface at a 2005 party.
Prior to her appointment as Florida Secretary of State, Lee served as a judge in Hillsborough County 13th Judicial Circuit Court as an appointee of then-Gov. Rick Scott; she was elected to that position for a full term in 2014. From 2007 to 2012, she was an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.
DeSantis’ Press Secretary Taryn Fenske, in an emailed statement, confirmed that Lee was leaving on good terms.
“We are grateful to Secretary Lee for her service to the State of Florida. Over the past 20 years, Florida has become one of the best states in the nation at administering elections, and Secretary Lee built on that tradition. As Secretary of State, she helped ensure Florida had an efficient election in 2020, with accurate results. Further, during her tenure, the Department of State formed strong partnerships with federal agencies to make sure Florida received all possible federal resources that are available to prevent and respond to cyber threats on elections. We wish her the best of luck in all her future endeavors.”
Florida’s Secretary of State is responsible for overseeing the Division of Elections including candidate filings and vote tabulations. On April 25, the governor signed Senate Bill (SB) 524, Election Administration, to “ensure that Florida continues to have secure and accurate elections” in an effort to strengthen election security measures which include requiring voter rolls to be annually reviewed and updated, strengthening ID requirements, establishing the Office of Election Crimes and Security to investigate election law violations, thus increasing penalties for violations of election laws.
“Governor DeSantis has made elections integrity a top priority from the very beginning of his administration, taking steps to ensure we invested in our elections systems, strengthened our cyber defenses, modernized equipment, updated voter rolls, and improved transparency, and we’ve seen results,” Lee said in an April press release after the bill was signed into law.
“As Florida’s Chief Elections Official, I share Governor DeSantis’ strong commitment to elections integrity. We want to ensure that every Floridian can have confidence that in Florida, we do elections right.”
It had been reported by various state news outlets that Lee might be resigning so she could pursue a run for a Congressional seat in Florida’s 15th District which covers parts of Hillsborough, Pasco, and Polk counties. Lee could not be reached for comment concerning her future plans.