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Two-way fight emerges for House Democratic post

Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat angling to be the next leader of the 44-member House Democratic caucus, formally drew a challenge Wednesday: Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, filed a notice with the House clerk indicating she, too, wants the job in 2014.

Rouson filed his intention to run for minority leader in October and was visible on the campaign trail in the closing weeks, helping fellow Democrats in their campaigns such as Kevin Rader in Palm Beach County and Larry Lee in St. Lucie County. Rouson also drew media attention by holding a press conference in October with former Gov. Charlie Crist on the need to change Florida voting laws, such as returning to 14 days of early voting.

Jones could be a formidable opponent for Rouson because she is already a part of the Democratic leadership circle. She is House Democratic leader Perry Thurston's pro tem, and under the House Democratic caucus rules, only Thurston can call an election to pick a new leader. (Thurston said he is officially neutral in the race).

In brief comments Wednesday, Rouson said Thurston should call an election "sooner rather than later."

-- Steve Bousquet

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