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Grady to Forgo Second Term, Lile Jumps In

Rep. Tom Grady, thought a rising star in the GOP-controlled House, said Wednesday that he won't seek re-election in November and can better serve Florida as a private citizen.

In a letter to incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon, Grady, a 52-year old attorney from Naples, said he plans on focusing on his private law practice and as chairman of the fiscally conservative organization, Prosperity Florida, which will promote conservative issues and candidates in the upcoming election cycle and beyond.

In that role, one of the things he'll be doing is working to help get Republican Bill McCollum elected governor, Grady said.

First elected in 2008, Grady said his experience in the Florida House has been invaluable. But as a self-described policy lover, Grady said politics between the chambers and the House leadership’s own political agenda sometimes trumped policy, a constraint he said he wouldn't face in his new role as head of a private political advocacy group.

“By not being in the House, I have been given a new pulpit to speak from,” Grady said. “I like to think I’m graduating, not retiring.”

Grady, who has expressed interest in becoming Florida Attorney General, said Wednesday a 2010 run would be "highly unlikely" and said he has not made up his mind on future political endeavors.

Grady’s departure clears the way for an unexpected primary in the predominantly Republican district that was previously represented by Rep. Dudley Goodlette, who after serving four terms has become a key advisor to current House Speaker Larry Cretul.

In the wake of Grady’s decision, fellow Collier County Republican Laird Lile told the News Service that he will run for the newly vacated seat.

“I’m in,” Lile said after speaking to Grady Wednesday morning.

Lile, a Naples-based estate and trust lawyer, has been active in the Florida Bar and now sits on its board of governors. Politically, Laird was the founding chairman of the RPPTL-PAC, a political action committee focused on legislation dealing with property, probate and trust laws in Florida.

Despite his freshman status, Grady successful sponsored measures to bolster regulations on international banks operating in Florida and tighten requirements on debt collection agencies to prevent predatory practices.

But Grady was unsuccessful in some more controversial efforts to require state employees to pay more for their retirement, and streamline the foreclosure process, which fell to defeat.

Grady was encouraged to run for the House by Gov. Charlie Crist, but has since distanced himself from the governor, withdrawing his support of Crist's Senate campaign even before Crist announced he would run for Senate with no party affiliation. Grady said he and Crist were simply not on the same political page anymore.

Grady said no single event persuaded him to step away from the Legislature. But he said he would continue to be engaged in policy decisions.

“It is not essential for me to be the face of the district,” Grady said. “I think I can still contribute.”

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