Javier Centonzio announced Friday he is dropping out of the race for House District 69 and endorsing fellow Democrat Jennifer Webb for the open seat.
During that time, Webb has added bulk endorsements from local leaders, a nod from St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, and the endorsement of the LGBTQ Victory Fund – if elected Webb would be the fourth openly LGBTQ member of the Florida Legislature, and the first LGBTQ woman.
Her fundraising operation has also remained competitive with the two Republicans in the race, Jeremy Bailie and Raymond Blacklidge.
In the face of this, Centonzio is living to fight another day.
“Today, after carefully reflecting on my campaign, I’ve decided that the best way for me to serve our community right now is to withdraw from this race and support my fellow Democrat Jennifer Webb,” Centonzio said in a campaign email.
“I want to thank all of my supporters from the bottom of my heart. I am so humbled and impressed by your commitment to making District 69, Pinellas County, and Florida a better place to live, work, and raise our families. I look forward to continuing our work together to make a difference.”
In a statement issued a few hours after Centonzio’s announcement, Webb thanked her former opponent for stepping aside.
“I thank Javier for his prudent decision today, and for allowing us to focus on the general election and bring the best possible candidate the voters of District 69” Webb said. “I look forward to representing all of District 69 on the issues that matter most to this community, like protecting our environment, strengthening our local governments and school board, and bringing responsible leadership to Tallahassee.”
In the same release, Reggie Cardozo of the Florida Democratic Party’s House Victory campaign arm cast the decision as a “gracious and selfless one.”
“Javier has been instrumental in advocating for Democratic values and causes and we admire and thank him for his contributions to his community as a citizen, and hopefully a candidate in another capacity soon,” he said.
HD 69 is currently held by Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters, who announced last year she would forego re-election to the House and run for a seat on the Pinellas County Commission, citing an “assault on home rule” from Tallahassee.
Webb is running for the Pinellas County seat for a second time after losing to Peters by 13 points in the 2016 cycle.
Webb’s finish was 2.5 points better than 2014 nominee Scott Orsini, and Democrats see that slow purpling of the district combined with the lack of an incumbent and the so-called “blue wave” as an opportunity to put HD 69 in play this year.
And without an expensive primary, those odds get a little better.
Bailie and Blacklidge are in a tight race, moneywise, though Bailie’s own string of endorsements show him with more support than Blacklidge in the primary. He’s touted nods from Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, County Commissioner John Morroni, Property Appraiser Mike Twitty and Clerk of Court Ken Burke, among others.
Bailie also picked up the support of former rival Chris Licata when he exited the race in November.
HD 69 includes the communities of Redington Beach, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island, South Pasadena and Gulfport. Republicans have a slim lead in voter registrations in the district, which voted plus-3 for Donald Trump in 2016.