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Democrat Jeff Clemens declines run for Patrick Murphy’s seat in Congress

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Saying he is opting to turn down a “huge pay raise,” Democratic state Sen. Jeff Clemens has announced he will not seek the 18th Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

“Why would I run for Congress, when Tallahassee has become so entertaining lately?” asked Clemens, referring to the chain reaction of mistrust and bitterness that arose in the wake of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli‘s recent abrupt withdrawal from the legislative process three days early.

“Besides, I have a tremendous amount of confidence that we’ll have a fantastic candidate who will keep that seat in Democratic hands.”

Just who that candidate will be is something of a mystery. North Palm Beach attorney Pam Keith, who is currently mounting a little-noticed run for the U.S. Senate, has mulled running but has not committed. She has reportedly met with Murphy on the subject, a conversation that was evidently inconclusive.

Sounding insouciant and somewhat snarky in his press release, Clemens also referred to his nationally reported kerfuffle with a Scott administration official over use of the term ‘climate change,’ allegedly prohibited — and then later un-banned — from official documents and testimony by the Governor’s Office.

“I still have a lot of things I want to accomplish in Tallahassee, and I’m hoping that some of them will involve getting more people to be afraid of words,” Clemens said. “Oh, and climate change. It would be good for them to fear actual climate change, too.”

House Democratic Leader state Rep. Mark Pafford, also from Palm Beach County, is not known to have the tightest relationship with Clemens, who has expressed interest in the Senate Minority Leader position following 2018 elections. But in a quote special to Florida Politics, Pafford sounded a conciliatory tone.

“Jeff Clemens is an asset to the people he represents, including me. There’s no doubt he would have been a great candidate for Congress. But I have to say I’m glad my senator is staying put and I’m happy our great legislative relationship will continue,” said Pafford on Thursday.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

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