Mel Martinez, Florida’s sole Republican United States Senator, has decided to retire instead of running for a new term in 2010. The retirement of Mel Martinez is bound to set off a scramble in both parties for candidates for a now open Senate seat.
Senator Mel Martinez has undergone some criticism from the Republican base for his somewhat soft views on the illegal immigration issue. But as Allahpundit from Hotair points out, any person elected to a state wide office in Florida, a state with a large Hispanic population, would likely not take a hard line of illegal immigration. Barack Obama won the state of Florida’s electoral votes in the last election, winning that Hispanic vote by fifteen percent.
On the Democratic side, Florida State Chief Financial Officer Alex Stark was considered the strongest candidate, but has already decided not to run. Mel Martinez’s resignation may cause him to reconsider, however. Representatives Ron Klein and Kendrick Meek and State Senator Dan Gelber have also been mentioned for the Mel Martinez Senate seat on the Democratic side.
On the Republican side, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has been suggested as the strongest candidate, but is likely a long shot to run for the Senate. State Attorney General Bill McCollum, State Senate President Jeff Atwater, Representatives Vera Buchanan and Connie Mack and former State House Speaker Marco Rubio have also been suggested as candidates for the Mel Martinez Senate seat.
The retirement of Mel Martinez will create the second open Senate seat Republicans will have to defend, as Senator Sam Brownbeck of Kansas is also retiring. On the other hand history suggests that the first midterm after a new President is elected usually advantages the opposite party. If that happens, it will prove a respite for Republicans who have suffered two election shellackings in a row in 2006 and 2008.
Mel Martinez previously served as President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Mel Martinez ran for the Senate in 2006, beating Democrat Betty Castor, after the popular Democrat Senator Bob Graham retired. Mel Martinez has also served a stint as chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Mel Martinez’s record as a US Senator has been considered even by Republicans to be somewhat poor. Senator Martinez was involved in the Terri Schiavo case, which proved controversial because of a dispute between Schiavo’s husband and her parents whether the young woman should be killed by being denied food and water. An attempt by the Senate, partly led by Martinez, to provide relief for Schiavo’s parents, who wanted their daughter to be kept alive, failed in the courts. Terri Schiavo died soon after.
Sources: Mel Martinez to Retire, Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, December 2nd, 2008
WaPo: Mel Martinez won’t run again in 2010, Allahpundit, Hotair.com, December 2nd, 2008