- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday he will not run for the state’s open Senate seat next year, saying he will instead work to build the Republican Party from outside elected office.

“While the opportunity to serve my state and country during these turbulent and dynamic times is compelling, now is not the right time to return to elected office,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Republican, announced last year he will not seek re-election and that set of a round of speculation over what the former governor would do. His brother, Bush” >President Bush, and his father, former President Bush, both seemed to send signals encouraging him to make a run.

“I’d like to see him run. I’d like to see him be president some day,” the senior Mr. Bush told Fox News Sunday this weekend.

But the former governor said he will stay outside of elected office and instead focus on education, including working to build “a system that lessens our populaces dependence on government.”

In his statement the former governor did not mention his brother, the current president, but did praise President-elect Barack Obama, saying he “ran a tremendous campaign and I am proud to call him my President. I am confident Republicans will find productive ways to work together with the new administration to advance reforms both sides of the aisle can support.”

While in office, Mr. Bush, 55, earned praise among conservatives for cutting taxes, trimming the state work force, pushing for school choice and moving to privatize many state services. Analysts credit his popularity among moderates to boosting test scores of minority students and leading the Sunshine State through two hurricanes.

Since leaving office in 2007 after two terms, Mr. Bush has kept a relatively low public profile, writing the occasional column or giving interviews.

The Republican nomination to seek Florida’s Senate seat was considered Mr. Bush’s for the taking if he wanted it, though state Attorney General Bill McCollum, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Adam H. Putnam all have expressed interest, as has former state House Speaker Allan G. Bense.

On the Democratic side, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, one of Florida’s two Democrats statewide — the other being Sen. Bill Nelson — has publicly expressed an interest in running, as have Reps. Allen Boyd and Kendrick B. Meek.

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