Republican Chris Licata announced Thursday that he would withdraw from the three-way primary race to replace HD 69 Rep. Kathleen Peters, who is not seeking re-election in 2018.
“Having recently completed eight-years in the Navy, I returned home to the Tampa Bay region to continue a life in service to my fellow citizens. Service to others and to my community was first nurtured through my education at Admiral Farragut Academy and further refined through my time in the Navy,” Licata wrote in a Thursday email.
“When I entered my name in the race for the Florida House of Representatives, I did so in this spirit of service. However recent developments have lead me to believe that this is not the best way to serve at this time; thus I will be submitting my withdrawal as a candidate for public office to the Florida Division of Election in the coming weeks,” he continued.
Licata thanked his supporters for backing his campaign over the past few months and said he would continue being “very involved” with the Republican Party of Pinellas County and Pinellas County Young Republicans.
Licata was running against Jeremy Bailie and Raymond Blacklidge in the Republican Primary. He initially filed to run in HD 62 at the end of July, a left-leaning seat held by House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, but he sent a letter to the Florida Division of Elections in August switching his campaign over to HD 69, where he said “his roots run deep.”
Licata’s campaign failed to gain traction when it came to fundraising, however. Through four months he raised $645 and lent his campaign $1,000.
Blacklidge, a veteran insurance executive, was the first-in candidate and is the current leader in the money race. He has brought in over $70,000 so far, including $5,500 in loans. Heading into November he had about $50,000 on hand.
Bailie, who filed in September, has raised $22,309 through his first two months in the race and had $21,261in the bank on Oct. 31.
Also running is Democrat Jennifer Necole Webb, who entered the race at the beginning of the month. She challenged Peters in 2016 and lost by 13 points on Election Day.
HD 69 has a Republican lean, though voter registrations between the two major parties are relatively close.
Peters won her 2012 contest against Democrat Josh Shulman 52-48, and her elections since have had even greater margins — she won 58-52 in 2014 and took 57 percent of the vote in 2016.
Earlier this year, Peters announced she would not seek a fourth term for the Pinellas County seat and would instead run for county commission, citing an “assault on home rule” from Tallahassee.