Webster, the first Republican to serve as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives since reconstruction, pulled out of the race at the last minute by letting the May 7 filing deadline pass.
His withdrawal leaves three remaining major contenders in the field: former U.S. Housing Secretary Mel Martinez, current House Speaker Johnnie Byrd and former U.S. Rep. and unsuccessful 2000 U.S. Senate candidate Bill McCollum, all of whom have a political base in the Tampa-Orlando-Daytona Beach region of the state.
Webster said his decision to forgo the race was prompted by his realization that he would have more influence if he ran for re-election than he would as a freshman United States senator. He is the second major Republican to drop out of the race, the first being U.S.> Rep. Mark Foley, who quit the campaign out of concern for the health of his parents.
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