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Melissa McKinlay drops out of CD18 Democratic primary

In a surprise announcement, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay is dropping her bid for Congress in Florida’s 18th District.

In a statement sent to her supporters, McKinlay, who said she considers herself the front-runner in the Democratic primary to replace Patrick Murphy, said she can’t do her job and compete for the seat now that millionaire businessman Randy Perkins has entered the contest.

“For six months, I have been a full-time commissioner campaigning part-time,” McKinlay writes. “Changing circumstances in this race – a multimillionaire self-funded candidate – meant that I’d have to be a full-time candidate and a barely part-time commissioner.

“That revelation is a game changer for me and is not a compromise I will make for my constituents,” McKinlay continued in the email. “A public servant’s integrity and trust are the assets citizens care about most. I will always make decisions to retain my integrity and remain worthy of your trust.”

The owner and founder of AshBritt, a debris-removal service, POLITICO Florida reported last week that Perkins said he would spend as much as $5 million of his own money in the race.

In a statement after McKinlay made her announcement, Perkins said, “Commissioner McKinlay has my utmost respect and admiration. She’s been a great public servant on the County Commission and I’m certain she will continue to serve the people of Palm Beach well there – or anywhere else she chooses to bring her talents. Melissa and I are passionate about many of the same issues and I want her to know that I’ll fight hard for the values we share.”

CD 18 encompasses Florida’s Treasure Coast – it includes St. Lucie and Martin counties and part of Palm Beach county. Murphy won the seat in a fiercely contested race in 2012, and easily won re-election last year.

His departure earlier this year to run for the U.S. Senate has opened up the floodgates of candidates vying to replace him. Even with McKinlay’s departure, there are now 12 candidates – four Democrats and eight Republicans – running for the seat.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at

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