- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Republican, said Tuesday he would not seek re-election in 2010, ensuring a high-stakes fight in the in the battleground state of Florida.

Mr. Martinez, who carried water for President George W. Bush as chair of the Republican National Committee, has been lagging in popularity – much like the president – in his home state.

“The Senate is the only federal office carrying a six-year term, so a decision about whether to run for re-election is one that my family and I have carefully considered over the past year,” Mr. Martinez said in a statement Tuesday. “It was a question that came to mind as I wrote my book – causing me to reflect on the path I’ve chosen, and to think about, with love and gratitude, those who’ve traveled with me.”

He continued: “The inescapable truth, for me, is that the call to public service is strong, but the call to home, family and lifelong friends is even stronger.”

Mr. Martinez, the first Cuban-American to serve in the Senate, served in Mr. Bush’s Cabinet as secretary of housing and urban development before stepping down to run for an open Senate seat in 2003.

Mr. Martinez’s close ties to the Bush administration appeared to hurt his popularity among Florida voters, who gave him an approval rating of 42 percent, according to a poll last month by Quinnipiac University.

Despite the moderate approval rating, voters split on whether Mr. Martinez should be awarded another term, with 36 percent saying he should return to the Senate in 2010 and 38 percent saying he should not.

It is not clear whether Florida’s chief financial officer, Alex Sink, considered to be the state’s most visible Democrat, would run for the open seat.

Rep. Ron Klein, a Democrat who ousted Republican Clay Shaw, also would be a likely choice among Democrats for the seat.

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