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Eric Draper out as Agriculture Commissioner

Eric Draper has dropped out of the race for agriculture commissioner, saying he can't balance running for office with the demands of his day job with Audubon of Florida. Still in the race for the Dems: former Tallahassee mayor and state Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox. The Republican candidates include Rep. Adam Putnam and state Sen. Carey Baker.

Draper's letter to supporters after the jump.

"The same values that led me to a career in conservation led me to run for Commissioner of Agriculture. When launching my campaign, I planned to divide my time between my work with Audubon of Florida and the work of campaigning - raising money, traveling and connecting with supporters. Now, after nearly three months I've concluded that a choice must be made between the job of running a statewide race and the equally challenging job of leading Audubon's policy work on Everglades restoration and land and water conservation.

"I am proud of my fourteen years at Audubon and feel fortunate to be part of one of the nation's most respected conservation groups. Keeping our state staff and volunteer leaders focused on protecting the environment is very important to me and is ultimately important for all Floridians who want strong advocates for our environment. We face serious challenges - from proposed coastal oil drilling to keeping Florida Forever and Everglades restoration going. And all non-profit organizations are facing unprecedented financial times. I had thought these manageable challenges but now find they require my full efforts.

"So I have decided to direct all of my attention to Audubon's mission and will soon bring my campaign to a close. The past three months have been both exciting and encouraging. I am confident that constituencies for clean water, safe food, green energy and saving farmland will help to redefine the role of Commissioner of
Agriculture.  

"I am especially grateful to the many people who gave money, time and advice and rallied to help me in this effort. It is my hope that you and others who supported my campaign will realize that the same values that led me to run - my deep commitment to protecting Florida's land and water - now lead me to recommit to conservation."

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