Audubon’s Draper drops out of ag commissioner race

Democrat Eric Draper says he’s leaving the race for agriculture commissioner to devote more time to environmental issues.

Draper, who is deputy director of Audubon of Florida, was one of four Democratic candidates in 2010 seeking to replace Republican Charles H. Bronson, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

“I knew when I got in my biggest challenge was going to be balancing my work particularly my environmental advocacy,” Draper told He announced his decision in an e-mail to campaign supporters.

“I gave it three good months to see if I could do that effectively,” Draper said. “I felt the conditions changed a little bit and I needed to refocus on Audubon.”

Draper lacked the farming background that past commissioners and several of the other candidates have had. When he announced his candidacy, Draper stressed his work with Audubon to preserve farms as part of the environmental landscape.

Fund raising wasn’t a problem, Draper said, though he indicated that it could require more of his time in the future. He said the $40,000 he raised will be redistributed to campaign donors.

“Money comes with time,” he said. “Money is just a result of getting in front of people and making your case.”

Draper, who said he had enjoyed campaigning, was meeting Monday with other environmentalists to discuss countering the political and media campaign in support of oil drilling.

“I look at the money being spent by these drilling companies, lobbyists, public relations and their campaign contributions (and) I realize I need to fight the battles in front of us right now rather than positioning myself to fight a battle in the future,” he said.

The remaining Democratic candidates in the race are former state Rep. Rick Minton, former Suwannee County Commissioner Randy Hatch and former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox. The Republican candidates are state Sen. Carey Baker and U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam. James Harlin Carter is running as a candidate of the Real Food Party of the United States of America.

(Photo and text copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not redistribute without permission)