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Darden Rice says Eric Lynn’s strong fundraising is NOT the reason why she won’t challenge him in CD 13 race

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Less than two weeks after announcing that she was considering entering the Democratic primary for Congressional District 13, Darden Rice has chosen to remain in her St. Petersburg City Council seat, and will not enter the contest after all.

In a statement issued to media outlets Friday morning, Rice wrote that after taking the time to consider the possibility of running, she has decided not to enter the race because of two main considerations:

“First, my deep-seated love for St. Pete and the wonderful people that call it home. Second, the incredible opportunities to make our city even better.”

Last weekend, Eric Lynn, the only declared Democrat in the race to oppose GOP incumbent David Jolly next year, stunned local observers by announcing that he had raised more than $400,000 in his first three months as a candidate.

But Rice tells Florida Politics that Lynn’s fundraising prowess is not the reason she has decided not to run for higher office.

“Lynn’s $ numbers did not keep me out,” she wrote in a text message. “I have name recognition and a proven ability to raise money.”

She also says that an upcoming decision by the Florida Supreme Court regarding a legal challenge to the Legislature’s redistricting maps did not play a part in her decision.

If the high court rules that the Legislature must draw a third map with more significant adjustments in the fallout from the Fair Districts constitutional amendment, it could affect how the CD 13 seat is currently constituted. The district encompasses much of Pinellas County, with only parts of St. Pete included. A redrawing of CD 13 that would encompass more of the city could prove more favorable to a Democratic candidate in 2016.

Former Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern has announced that she will get into the contest, though she has yet to move to the district. She did not respond to a message for comment on Friday morning.

In her statement, Rice says that she would have not resigned from her District 4 council seat to run for Congress, but says “I feel better about not being distracted from my commitment to serve and my ability to focus on the efforts I have poured my heart and soul into to better our community.”

(Correction: An earlier version of this story listed St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor as having endorsed Lynn. That information was taken from a Lynn fundraising announcement from earlier this year, with both having been listed as hosts. Ben Kirby, Mayor Kriseman’s spokesman, tells Florida Politics that in fact the mayor has not endorsed anyone in the race. We’re currently checking with Kathy Castor’s folks on whether she has endorsed or not.)

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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