Crist will run for Senate
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Gov. Charlie Crist confirmed Tuesday he
will run for U.S. Senate instead of re-election next year, a
decision that gives Republicans their best shot at maintaining the
seat Mel Martinez is leaving after one term.
The race is important to Republicans nationally as they try to
keep Democrats from winning or holding a 60-seat majority in the
Senate that can overcome GOP filibusters. Senate Democrats now have
59 votes and would reach 60 if Al Franken wins a marathon recount
Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial
Committee, quickly endorsed Crist as "the best candidate in 2010
to ensure that we maintain the checks and balances that Floridians
deserve in the United States Senate. "
The announcement, which had been expected, is also likely to
stir up Florida politics as others scramble to replace the popular
governor, who was considered a shoo-in had he sought a second term.
"Our country is facing the most profound public policy
questions in our lifetime, questions relating to the economy,
taxes, healthcare, the environment and national security," Crist
said in a statement.
Crist said he intends to take to Washington his Florida
approach, that "when we put people first and work together much
can be accomplished."
The governor kept his announcement low-key, choosing to issue a
statement rather than hold a press conference, even though his
official schedule had three media events related to other business.
The idea is to project the image that he is focused on his current
job rather than already campaigning.
Crist instantly becomes the front-runner in the Senate race. He
has maintained approval ratings in the high 60-percent range
despite the state's gloomy economy, budget cuts, a high foreclosure
rate and the highest unemployment level since 1975. That popularity
is credited to an unwavering optimism, bipartisan attitude and the
projection of a sense that he cares.
Crist left the state Senate to seek the same U.S. Senate seat in
1998, losing to Democratic incumbent Bob Graham. That race helped
Crist build his name recognition and a network that helped him win
the next three statewide races he entered - education commissioner
in 2000, attorney general in 2002 and governor in 2006.
Crist will have a primary challenger. Former House Speaker Marco
Rubio announced his candidacy last week and is expected to try to
win over the GOP's conservative base, some of whom may not be happy
with Crist's more moderate approach.
Democrats in the race include U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and state
Sen. Dan Gelber, both from Miami-Dade County.
Crist's decision gives Democrats their best chance in more than
a decade at winning back some power in Tallahassee. Republicans
have controlled the governor's mansion and the Legislature since
former Gov. Jeb Bush began the first of his two terms in 1998.
All three of Florida's Cabinet members are expected to get in
the race to replace Crist. Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a
Democrat, and Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum would forgo
re-election to run for governor. Agriculture Commissioner Charles
Bronson, who under Florida law can't seek a third term, has also
said he will get in the race.
If the dominoes fall as expected, all five statewide positions
on the 2010 ballot will be open seats.
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