GOP's Webster drops U.S. Senate bid

May 10, 2004 at 2:21 PM

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., May 10 (UPI) -- The field of Republicans running for U.S. Senate from Florida is a bit less crowded now that state Sen. Daniel Webster has dropped out of the race.

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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