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    Frankel withdraws as candidate for governor

    Among Democrats, the three remaining candidates are Janet Reno, Bill McBride and Daryl Jones.

    By WES ALLISON, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 7, 2002

    This time last year at least seven prominent Democrats were sniffing around the governor's race, vying to become the party's best hope for unseating Republican incumbent Jeb Bush.

    Now the surviving members of that group could fit on a small couch.

    Three months before the Democratic primary there are just three prominent Democrats left in the race. Retiring House Minority Leader Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach dropped out Thursday after raising little money and gaining even less public attention.

    That narrows the once-lengthy list of contenders to front-runner Janet Reno, the former U.S. attorney general; Bill McBride, the Tampa lawyer; and state Sen. Daryl Jones of Miami. Bush has a comfortable lead in campaign contributions and in opinion polls over any of his potential opponents.

    Frankel, 54, a West Palm Beach lawyer, said her bid was hampered by the series of contentious legislative sessions that prevented her from raising money and campaigning for most of the year.

    "I realized for all practical purposes, given the dynamics of the primary field and the talent there, I could not be competitive," Frankel said. "There are other opportunities that would be more practical for me to achieve right now."

    Reno, McBride and Jones face off in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary. The winner faces Bush on Nov. 5.

    Frankel said she will support the winner of the Democratic primary. "I feel any of them would do a great job, far better than the current governor," she said.

    In late March, Frankel said she was considering dropping out. At the time, polls had Reno far ahead of the pack, with Frankel and Jones at less than 10 percent. "I think it's going to be tough for anyone to get a word in edgewise over Janet Reno," Frankel said then.

    Little has changed. Reno still is far head of the others, though polls show Bush well ahead of her.

    Frankel said she doubted her exit would have any significant impact on the race. But McBride campaign spokesman Alan Stonecipher said her decision should help McBride. Polls have shown McBride has far less name recognition than Reno.

    "She was perceived down there as an alternative to Reno," Stonecipher said, referring to Reno's South Florida base. "I think that provides us an opportunity, as we become better known, to appeal to her supporters."

    Jones, whose campaign has been nearly as sluggish as Frankel's, said her exit should help his candidacy.

    "I'm now the candidate in the race with the only legislative experience, and that makes a difference," Jones said.

    Reno said in a statement that she admired Frankel's "nonstop vigor."

    Frankel served in the state House from 1986 to 1992 before losing a bid for the U.S. House. She was re-elected to her old state House seat in 1994 and served the last two years as the House Democratic leader.

    In her role as foil to the governor and the Republican-led House, Frankel was fiercely partisan and often sharp-tongued. She frequently appeared on national television during the 2000 presidential recount as a spokeswoman for the Democratic viewpoint.

    Term limits prevent her from running for re-election in November, but she said Thursday she has been approached about running for other offices, including state Senate, state agriculture commissioner, mayor of West Palm Beach and the Palm Beach County Commission.

    "I've been doing my due diligence to consider very carefully what are my options," she said. "I haven't finished that process yet."

    Among the other Democrats who flirted with the governor's race a year ago but decided to sit it out: U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa; Pete Peterson, the former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam; and Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox, who is running for attorney general.

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