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    Outcome of primaries influences GOP leader

    ©Associated Press
    September 12, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- Miami state Rep. Gaston Cantens on Wednesday pulled out of the race to be state House speaker in 2004, leaving Rep. Allen Bense of Panama City the only contender for the post if Republicans keep their large majority in the House.

    Cantens' decision to quit the race came a day after several Republican primaries -- including many in which the candidates had committed to support either Bense or Cantens for the post.

    House members elect their speaker, who controls the House's agenda and wields enormous influence over the state lawmaking process.

    The outcomes of Tuesday's primary elections had an impact on who would have won that race.

    Bense, first elected in 1998, will follow Rep. Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, who will be the next speaker when the House reconvenes March 4.

    A joint statement by Bense and Cantens said Cantens would serve in a key leadership role when Bense becomes speaker in 2004.

    "Bense shares my belief that the Florida House move forward with its efforts to improve the lives of each of our citizens," Cantens said in the statement.

    "When you look at Gaston's and my record, you'll see that we are almost identical in terms of our ideology and our goals," Bense said.

    Republicans hold a 77-43 majority in the House.

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