Aide who left Rubio drops out of Senate race

Corcoran quit a $175, 000 job to make the run.

Published May 15, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - A key adviser to House Speaker Marco Rubio who left his $175, 000 job to run for state Senate abruptly dropped out of the race Monday.

Richard Corcoran's decision - just hours before candidates officially qualified - took the Capital by surprise. He had shown himself a formidable fundraiser, gathering $185, 000 in two weeks, and had secured endorsements from the top three Republicans in the Senate.

But Corcoran, 42, lacked the name recognition of his two main Republican rivals, Reps. Dennis Baxley of Ocala and Charlie Dean of Inverness.

"My desire was that this would be a positive and issue-based campaign, " Corcoran wrote in a statement. "Recent developments have made it clear that this will not be the case."

Over the weekend, a mailer by a political committee overseen by Dean's campaign manager brought up Corcoran's 1998 House race against Nancy Argenziano.

"Richard Corcoran said hateful, hurtful (and false) things about my daughter, " Argenziano's mother is quoted as saying. "The pain won't go away ... and neither will he."

It was the second flyer related to the House race, which Argenziano won easily. There also was a radio ad set to air that lampooned a 1998 fine Corcoran paid for accidentally shooting a seagull and other nongame birds.

Argenziano went on to represent Senate District 3, but she was selected to serve on the Public Service Commission, overseeing utilities in Florida.

Polls indicated the tactics were working.

A Florida Chamber of Commerce survey conducted last week showed Corcoran's favorability/unfavorability ratio at 23-14. Dean's was 49-9 and Dennis Baxley's was 32-9.

Baxley and Dean qualified Monday along with Don Curtis of Perry. They face off in the June 5 Republican primary. The winner squares off against one of the Democrats, Suzan Franks or Mark Ravenscraft, on June 26.

Corcoran called Baxley and Dean Monday morning to break the news.

"He's more comfortable not running right now, " Baxley said. "We're always afraid of a bloodbath in this kind of a primary, and I certainly want to avoid that. ... I'm definitely going to stay on the issues. I'm not about stopping anybody."

Dean said the mailers were solely the work of his campaign manager, Rockie Pennington, and that he did not agree or disagree with them. "There are events that happen in politics, " he said.

Corcoran worked briefly as Rubio's chief of staff and was around during creation of the bold but controversial House plan to eliminate property taxes on primary homes by increasing the sales tax.

But Corcoran said last week he was against raising any taxes, including the sales taxes. He did not return phone calls Monday but said in the statement that he planned to continue practicing law in Crystal River "and remain involved in public service within the district, " which covers parts of 13 counties from Citrus to the Panhandle. There are no plans for him to return to Rubio's staff.

Staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.