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Democrat suddenly withdraws from race for Pinellas County state senate seat

Sen. Jeff Brandes (center) flanked by Sen. Darryl Rouson (left) and Central Florida Urban League CEO Glen Gilzean (right) DIRK SHADD | Times

Only two weeks after she officially qualified for the race, Democrat Carrie Pilon suddenly dropped her bid for a Pinellas County state senate seat on Friday.

"It is only after much thoughtful contemplation and family consultation that I must say, with a heavy heart, that I am withdrawing from this race for personal reasons," read a statement released Friday morning.

Pilon added that she doesn't want to "go into great detail about these circumstances" but that "a close family member is experiencing some serious and unexpected health problems."

She was running against Republican incumbent Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg.

While Pilon was not the favorite to win, Senate District 24 has been on the Democrats' wish-list for years. There are only about 15,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in the district, with more than 78,000 people who chose to register with "No Party Affiliation."

But the chair of the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee, Susan McGrath, said voters shouldn't count out the Democrats.

"There's plenty of voters who want a change in Tallahassee," she said. "We feel like it’s a completely competitive.  Senate District 24 has always been a targeted seat for this election cycle."

A rarely-used piece of election law allows the committee to vote on a new nominee, and if the state party ratifies their choice, a new Democrat can still appear on the ballot in November. But it must be done within five days of the Division of Elections receiving Pilon's withdrawal — meaning the next nominee will likely be chosen within the next two weeks.

"We have some really strong people talking about this," McGrath added. "People that I’m excited about."