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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Largo Commission race loses one candidate, gains another



An already eventful City Commission race got a new twist Tuesday when Aaron Darr, a prominent advocate for Florida's HIV and AIDS community, withdrew his candidacy to throw his support behind Neil McMullen, a descendant of one of the city's oldest families.  

Darr, 24, said he made his decision to avoid a split vote between what he feels are two progressive candidates with similar ideas for the city, including creation of programs that focus on early childhood education, development of a more prominent downtown, and an emphasis on arts and culture in the community. 

"My intention of doing this is really for unity to make sure a progressive wins this race and make sure that Curtis Holmes does not get re-elected," he said, adding that he believes the incumbent is an obstructionist who has only his personal interests in mind.

McMullen has not yet filed with the city to run, said City Clerk Diane Bruner, but when reached by phone Tuesday morning, he confirmed he plans to enter the race.

Holmes also hasn't filed to run but said in December he intends to pursue re-election. 

Darr, who was diagnosed with HIV at 17, said his decision to withdraw was not influenced by an extortion scandal between him and another candidate

According to police, Robert Avery sent an anonymous email to Darr in August via his campaign website saying that he had "nice things the city of Largo will be seeing soon" and for Darr to remember to "never post anything digitally you wouldn't want your mom or partner to see."

Avery, 31, was arrested in late November on felony extortion charges and told a reporter at the time that his computer was hacked. 

Darr said he plans to shift his focus to helping McMullen get elected in the Nov. 8 election and continuing to raise awareness for issues facing those in the HIV and AIDS community, especially in light of a recent Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau story that Florida leads the nation in new HIV infections.

As far as his political career goes, Darr said he may explore other opportunities down the line.

"I'm not ruling out running for anything in the future," he said. "I'm 24. I have plenty of time."

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 3, 2016 2:11pm]


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