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UPDATED: Top GOP challenger drops out of House race

UPDATED: Deneault news release from his Website: "As we were continuing to ramp up our campaign, laying the foundation for the fall election, it became clear that the demands of campaigning were taking a personal toll far greater than I had anticipated. I have made the decision to withdraw from this effort for personal and health related issues. I cannot describe, in a letter, all the thinking that has gone into this very difficult decision. I will be honest, as I always am, about my reasons. I do not believe I can give 100% of my personal and family commitment at this time in my life." (full statement on jump)

Republican Connie Deneault, who broke fast from the gate to challenge state Rep. Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg, will announce he's shutting down his campaign Tuesday.

Deneault, Connie_deneault__color_hrez63, a former State Farm insurance agent and manager, raised more than $51,000 in March, his first month of fund-raising. He opened a campaign office above Valentino's Little Italy on Fourth Street in St. Pete. He got $8,000 from the state party and hired the consulting firm of Randy Enwright, swiftly raising hopes he could oust Heller from the seat as a top Republican challenger.

Deneault is expected to cite health reasons in a news release due Tuesday. Republicans have begun pondering who might take his spot on the ballot before June qualifying (Deneault had turned enough petitions to be on the ballot; he was the only Republican).

"I just think he was so much more worn down with the campaign. It just took a toll on him. I know it did -- I worked with him every day," said campaign manager Bob Esposito.

David DeCamp, Times staff writer

A Letter from Connie

Dear Friends and Supporters,

I decided to run for public office because, like you, I was deeply concerned about the future of our state and country. I am an American who believes that government should be ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’. It’s important we remember that we are still a nation of independent thinkers who believe in the individual, the right to live, work and raise families in the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’.

I wanted to bring my strong sense of ethics, honesty, hard work, and entrepreneurial business experience, to Tallahassee, to work for Floridians and the people of District 52.

We have built a dedicated, hard working team of campaign supporters; together, we have worked hard to meet people and get our message out. I am humbled by the over 1,000 voters in House District 52 who signed a petition to put my name on the 2010 ballot. I cannot thank them enough for their support. As you know, I have never run for public office and am not a politician. This has been a new experience for Gigi and me, and we have learned a lot about the process of elections in the past two and one-half months; more importantly, we have met many Floridians who are deeply concerned, as we are, about the future.

I believe elected officials must represent their constituents with 100% of their hearts, minds and souls. Anything short of such a commitment is unacceptable. Throughout my 40-year business career serving people, I have lived by those principles of drive and dedication.

As we were continuing to ramp up our campaign, laying the foundation for the fall election, it became clear that the demands of campaigning were taking a personal toll far greater than I had anticipated. I have made the decision to withdraw from this effort for personal and health related issues. I cannot describe, in a letter, all the thinking that has gone into this very difficult decision. I will be honest, as I always am, about my reasons. I do not believe I can give 100% of my personal and family commitment at this time in my life.

I believe that we need leaders in Tallahassee that will work hard to produce results and get Floridians back to work. I will continue to work to support Republican candidates that share my values and principles of limited government and personal responsibility. Gigi and I are deeply motivated by the spirit of the people who have supported us throughout this campaign. Our lives have been enriched forever by all of you.

Sincerely,

Connie Deneault

[Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 3:39pm]

    

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