Sheriff candidate Everett Rice reportedly says candidate forums are an 'exercise in stupidity'

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One Republican challenger in the race for Pinellas County Sheriff is becoming increasingly elusive just as the primary is drawing near, forum organizers say, reports Katie Dolac, Jared Leone and Melissa Latman of Patch..

Everett Rice was noticeably absent at a July 2 candidate forum in Clearwater, two weeks after lashing out at a moderator during a forum in Palm Harbor. And some forum organizers are under the impression that Rice — slightly ahead of his opponent, according to an unscientific poll conducted by St. Pete Polls — is now refusing to attend any other forums before the Aug. 14 Republican primary, except for an upcoming July 17 debate being streamed live on Patch.

“If you only knew the story behind the story to make sure Rice didn’t fail to show up at the debate,” said Harvey Smith, coordinator for the July 17 Sheriff’s candidate debate at the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater Octagon Arts Center. “[He] has said he won’t participate in any more as it’s (quote Rice) ‘an exercise in stupidity.’ ”

Rice confirmed his attendance to the July 17 debate with both the debate coordinator and a Patch reporter.

He said it would be his last before the campaign.

“I have about exhausted all the forums,” Rice said during a phone interview. “It is the same thing over and over again.”

Carl Schrader, who helped put together the July 2 Clearwater forum, said Rice was elusive about his plans leading up to his event. Rice said he would call back, but he waited until two days before the forum to say he had a previous engagement.

“For whatever reason, (Rice) said he had something more important to do,” Schrader said at the outset of the July 2 candidate forum.

Rice told Patch that he could not attend because he had committed to helping at a food pantry opening for Beaming Hope Church in Clearwater.

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