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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pruitt to resign, Senate sources say

The 2009 Session is barely over, and two Republican senators say one of their most esteemed members is resigning.

Pruitt Sen. Ken Pruitt (left), founder of Bright Futures and former Senate president, is reportedly planning to resign his Port St. Lucie district seat.

"You look at the things he did as a senator and representative, and he was incredible," said Sen. Jim King, also a former Senate president. "He was my No. 1 supporter. If not for him I wouldn't have been Senate president."

Senate Republicans are expected to quickly rally around former state Rep. Joe Negron of Stuart as a replacement. Negron narrowly lost a Congressional race in 2006.

Negron said Pruitt called him earlier today to say he was stepping down on Aug. 4 and that he wanted to back Negron's candidacy.

Negron praised Pruitt and said he set the "gold standard" for public servants. He said Gov. Charlie Crist would have to call a special election.

Some lawmakers said Pruitt simply no longer finds joy in the process. "I think the loss of his son created a vacuum that this process could not fill," King said.

Senate Republican leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla said he had heard earlier today that Pruitt might step down, but he hadn't spoken with Pruitt. The spokeswoman or the former Senate president, Kathy Mears, said she couldn't discuss the matter.

-- Marc Caputo

[Photo: Scott Keeler, Times files]

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 5:59pm]


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