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STUART - Attorney Joe Negron announced Thursday he is again ready to challenge state Rep. Art Argenio for the House seat Argenio won in last year's special election.
After losing the Republican primary runoff to Argenio, Negron insisted he would "not run again." Argenio went on to win the general election against Democrat Cara Scherer to represent parts of southern Martin and northern Palm Beach counties.
Negron said his experience since then has made him reconsider the decision not to run.
"I've had time to reflect and I'm not prepared to give up on the democratic process," Negron said. "There's been a steady stream of contacts from my supporters ... letters, e-mails and phone calls encouraging me to run."
Negron, who lost the bitter fight to Argenio by a 52-48 percent margin, said he plans to talk about the "kind of representative" Argenio is and the "bizarre comments he has made."
"There's a pattern of unpredictable, unconscientious behavior. When you have a representative that is chastised by the majority leadership, it's an embarrassment to the entire community," Negron said.
Argenio said he was surprised by the news.
"I had suspicions because he has been walking around town grumbling and not taking responsibilities for his actions," Argenio said. "For instance, people came up to me at the recent Republican Bar B Q and were saying he was acting like he was going to shoot me or something."
But Argenio reiterated his campaign criticisms of Negron.
"He switched parties from Republican to Democrat and back Republican. If he flip flops from party to party, I guess he can flip flop on whether he is going to run again," said Argenio. "I'm sure that is one of the factors that got him to run ... because there are no Democrats running and he could get the crossover votes, since he's basically a Democrat anyway."
Negron said Argenio's diatribe about his past party-switching is "nothing new " and said high profile Republican leaders such as Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan and state Sen. "Doc" Myers started out as Democrats.
"I find it ironic that Art criticizes my Republican credentials when he moved into town six years ago and never has helped a local Republican win an office," said Negron. "I have been moving the Republican Party forward in this community longer than Art has lived here."
In a statement he released Thursday, Negron also accused Argenio of using "an unprecedented onslaught of soft money" from an out-of-town group that "highjacked the election" and led to his defeat. Citizens for a Sound Economy, a lobbying group that favors a reform of the state's civil lawsuit system, launched a last-minute attack on Negron just before the election.
Argenio said he had no connection to the group.
"Honestly, I have no idea what he is talking about with soft money. He outraised me by four to one," Argenio said.
Negron said, as for soft money, "that's the problem, Art doesn't know about these things."
"When you have the kind of unregulated, undisclosed advertising blitz from an out-of-town group ... in exchange for that support, he is against meaningful HMO reform and protecting nursing home patients," Negron said.
After the general election, state officials dismissed a complaint Negron filed against the lobby group.
Many Martin County Republican officials said they watched Argenio carefully during 2000 legislative session. Local GOP leaders have said they hope they could count on him to rise quickly through the ranks and assume a leadership position.
"I think I have done a good job. I'm a better candidate now, especially since I have a year under my belt." Argenio said. "I could potentially serve nine years after the election. This session, I was a major player in the Republican health care package and the school safety package."