Darden Rice thought about jumping in the political fray to challenge incumbent Congressman David Jolly, but ultimately decided that her spot on City Council was where she should stay — for now.
Of course, if the state Supreme Court redraws the lines of the 13th Congressional District to include the Democrat-heavy southern neighborhoods of St. Petersburg, the 45-year-old first-term council member said Friday that she might reconsider.
“Who wouldn’t?” she said.
The more than $400,0000 recently reported raised by Eric Lynn, the one announced Democratic candidate in the race, was impressive, Rice said. But that wasn’t the reason she decided against the race.
“When you don’t have widespread name recognition, you need to raise a lot of money. I have name recognition. That doesn’t keep me out,” Rice said. “But he does get credit for doing exactly what he’s supposed to do.”
Lynn issued a statement, praising Rice’s decision.
“I respect Darden’s decision not to run. It is definitely better that the resources that would have been put towards an expensive primary fight are much better put towards taking on David Jolly next November,” he said.
Tampa Democrat Mary Mulhern, who is planning to move to St. Petersburg and enter the race, said Lynn’s cash haul so far is “impressive.”
But she wants more details on who is giving and where they live.
“I’m waiting to see where the money comes from,” she said.
The former Tampa City Council member said she is busy laying the groundwork for a campaign and intends to run.
Rice said she realized that there is more that she wants to accomplish on the city council.
“I’m in a great spot right now,” she said. “I love the work I’m doing.”
In her first 1 1/2 years on council, Rice has proven to be a reliable political ally of Mayor Rick Kriseman, supporting him on his failed plan to let the Tampa Bay Rays look outside the city for possible new stadium sites. She also back him on the initial bumps associated with the start of universal curbside recycling, although she recently called for changes to accommodate neighborhoods who want alley pick ups.
After the Tampa Bay Times reported early Friday that she wasn’t running for Congress, Kriseman’s chief of staff Kevin King tweeted: “We need her in St. Pete, working with @Kriseman to bring about change, attain city’s vision. We’re getting there.”
Council member Karl Nurse, a close Rice confidant, said he had urged her not to run and was happy to learn that she’ll stay on council.
Nurse predicted a bright politcal future for his friend.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mayor Rice down the road,” he said.
Florida’s 13th Congressional District covers most of Pinellas County. Republican David Jolly won the seat in a March 11, 2014, special election following the death of U.S. Rep. Bill Young. Jolly was reelected in November 2014 after the Democratic Party failed to field a candidate.
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