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Patterson Jumps Into GOP Primary for State CFO

Volusia County state Rep. Pat Patterson said Tuesday that he is “definitely” running for the Cabinet post of chief financial officer, setting the stage for a potential Republican primary contest with Senate President Jeff Atwater.

“Outside the four blocks surrounding the Capitol, most people in Florida have no idea who the Senate president or House speaker is,” said Patterson, who said he will file his candidate papers by early next week.

Patterson, who lives in Deland, had been planning to run for the Central Florida state Senate seat being vacated by Carey Baker, R-Eustis, a candidate for agriculture commissioner.

Patterson said he’ll transfer about $40,000 in campaign cash already collected as seed money for the Cabinet run.

Patterson, 60, served in the House from 1998-2000, losing a re-election bid to Democrat Joyce Cusack. Following redistricting, Patterson won a redrawn House seat and has remained in office since 2002.

An Allstate Insurance agent for 30 years, Patterson said he’ll sever his ties with the company and become an independent agent later this summer. He says his background will help him in a Cabinet post whose duties cover the insurance and financial services industries, cemetery regulation, and consumer protection.

Patterson, a generally low-key personality who chaired the House Insurance, Business and Financial Affairs Policy Committee, doesn’t bring the same luster or lobbyist connections that Atwater commands as Senate president. Atwater, from North Palm Beach, jumped into the race within days of incumbent Democrat Alex Sink’s announcing that she was running for governor.

Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer has been working to discourage primary contests in a political year where the recession is expected to restrict available campaign dollars. But Patterson shrugged off such concerns, saying he’s been hearing from party supporters who want more choices on the ballot.

“I think there are a lot of people disenchanted with what they’re seeing and hearing from the party,” Patterson said.

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