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Eric Draper declares for Agriculture post

Long-time conservationist and Democratic activist Eric Draper declared his candidacy Thursday for state agriculture commissioner in 2010. A 55-year-old Tampa native, Draper is the deputy director of Audubon of Florida and is a third-generation Floridian, and while he says preserving farmland is important, he plans to increase the agency's emphasis on the environment.

"It's a beautiful state. Our natural resources are important," Draper said. "The commissioner of agriculture should be Florida's top environmental steward. I see an opportunity to transform the office." A veteran environmental lobbyist, Draper worked in opposition to the offshore-drilling bill in the recently-ended session and is now trying to persuade Gov. Charlie Crist to veto a growth management bill.

Draper got his political start in 1980 as an aide to then-state Rep. George Sheldon of Tampa, and in 1986 he helped get Kent Conrad elected to the U.S. Senate in North Dakota. In 1994, he was staff director in the House Democratic office when Jim Davis was majority leader in Tallahassee. He and his wife Sheila have three children; the two oldest are identical twins.  

Former Democratic Rep. Rick Minton of Fort Pierce also has filed fund-raising papers for the agriculture post. 

-- Steve Bousquet