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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lone Democrat drops out of D-17 state Senate race to replace Jim Norman



It could be that only Republican voters will pick Jim Norman’s state Senate successor after the lone Democrat dropped out of the race to replace him.

Wes Johnson, a Democrat from Tampa, notified the state Division of Elections earlier this week that he was quitting the race for the District 17 Senate seat, which represents parts of Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

Norman withdrew his reelection bid in June after pleading guilty to an ethics charge.

Johnson’s withdrawal happened after early voting for the Aug. 14 primary election had begun, and his letter did not appear on the state’s website until Friday afternoon.

The Democratic parties in Hillsborough and Pasco counties have until Thursday to field another candidate.

If they don’t find one, the Division of Elections will decide what to do.

Hillsborough County Democratic Party chairman Chris Mitchell said the state has flexibility and could decide to keep the Republican primary closed. Or officials could come up with another solution so that Democrats and no-party voters can vote, he said.

Elections division spokesman Chris Cate did not respond to a question about how the state planned to handle the race.

Republicans running for the seat representing northwest Hillsborough and central and eastern Pasco include political newcomer John Korsak, state Rep. John Legg and former state Rep. Rob Wallace.

Johnson did not return a call seeking comment Friday, and Mitchell declined to say why he dropped out. Mitchell said the two county parties have identified some potential candidates whom he declined to name.

"We are very disappointed to learn of Dr. Johnson’s decision to withdraw from the race," Mitchell said. "The voters in District 17 have already begun receiving their ballots and casting their votes, so the timing is especially unfortunate. We wish Wes all the best, and now we turn to the important matter of identifying another strong Democratic candidate to run for this seat."

-- By Jodie Tillman, Times Staff Writer


[Last modified: Friday, August 3, 2012 9:11pm]


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