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Bill McBride has stepped down as managing partner of Tampa, Fla.-based Holland & Knight to explore a run for the Democratic nomination in next year’s Florida gubernatorial election. He says he will resign entirely from Florida’s biggest law firm if he decides to run. McBride, 56, announced his resignation as managing partner of the 1,200-lawyer national firm Tuesday in a news release. The announcement followed a day of discussions with Holland partners in Chicago. “Understandably, the demands of the position of managing partner do not provide me with the time that I need to thoughtfully review my options,” McBride said in the release. In a phone interview, McBride, a native of Leesburg, Fla., rated the chances that he will become a candidate as good. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have resigned my job,” he said. He plans to spend the summer building a campaign organization and gauging interest among political contributors in his candidacy. Robert R. Feagin III, chairman of the firm’s directors committee, will replace McBride as managing partner through March 2002, when McBride’s second five-year term as managing partner expires. C. Thomas Swaim will replace Feagin as chairman of the 24-member directors committee. McBride said he pledged to leave Holland & Knight if he decides to run in order to avoid conflicts of interest. But he downplayed reports that he did so to ease the concern of Holland partners about alienating the firm’s Republican clients. “My firm is nonpartisan, and the firm does not get involved in politics,” he said. “I’ve always loved my Republican clients.” McBride said his Chicago meeting was emotional, and that he and several partners cried after it was agreed that he would step aside as managing partner. “This is a family that we have, and I’ve been part of it for 26 years,” he said. Since McBride was elected managing partner in 1992, Holland has grown into the fifth largest law firm in the country, with offices in two dozen U.S. cities and four foreign locations. McBride follows former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson in exploring a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor. The nominee likely will face incumbent Republican Gov. Jeb Bush in November 2002. Like Bush, who never held political office before becoming governor, McBride, a longtime moderate Democrat, has never held elected office. McBride served as an aide to former Democratic Gov. Reubin Askew, and was elected as a delegate to the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. There, he served as a member to the platform committee chaired by Geraldine Ferraro. McBride, a former Marine who won a Bronze Star for his combat service in Vietnam, said he doesn’t consider never having held an elected office a liability. He noted that he makes up for his lack of electoral experience with extensive business, political, civic and charitable experience. Last year, McBride publicly criticized Bush for his effort to speed up the death penalty process. Mitch Caesar, chairman of the Broward Democratic Party and former state party chairman, said McBride could attract voters with a nontraditional campaign and a fresh face. “It won’t be a campaign as usual,” Caesar said.

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