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Rice ends quest for state attorney general post

The state representative, trailing in fundraising, also won't attempt to reclaim the seat he vacated.

By AARON SHAROCKMAN
Published July 11, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - State Rep. Everett Rice dropped out of the race for state attorney general on Monday, ending a yearlong campaign waged in relative obscurity and beset with money woes.

Rice, 61, trailed in fundraising behind the two other Republicans in the race, former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum of Longwood and state Rep. Joe Negron of Stuart.

The sagging numbers raised questions for months.

"No matter how well qualified I am, I cannot compete with the war chests of the other candidates," said Rice in a statement. "If I stayed in this race, I would end up being a spoiler for one of the other two Republican candidates. That is a role I wouldn't want to play."

Rice, who was Pinellas sheriff for 16 years and was elected unopposed to the state Legislature in 2004, raised $223,000 since he entered the attorney general's race in 2005, including $47,000 in the past nine months..

McCollum, meanwhile, has raised $925,000 since he entered the race in the fall. And Negron, the former state House Appropriations Committee chairman, has raised $1.33-million.

A fourth candidate, state Sen. Burt Saunders of Naples, dropped out last month.

"Remaining in the attorney general's race wasn't viable," said Peter Schweitzer, a Rice campaign spokesman. Rice could not be reached for comment.

Schweitzer said the campaign has not discussed endorsing one of the two remaining Republicans.

Rice, however, ruled out running for his state House seat along the Pinellas beaches, which has drawn four Republicans and one Democrat.

Endorsed by 50 of Florida's 67 sheriffs, Rice ran as the only candidate with experience running a law enforcement agency.

He talked about his work in the Legislature, where he co-sponsored the Jessica Lunsford Act, which increases monitoring and punishment of sex offenders, and voted against legislation aimed at reinserting Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.

Times staff writers Steve Bousquet and Adam C. Smith contributed to this report. Aaron Sharockman can be reached at 727 892-2273 or asharockman@sptimes.com.