Historic City news learned yesterday that Sen. Mel Martinez wasn’t interested in sticking around Washington D.C. for the remainder of his six-year Senate term.
Insiders and observers began speculating immediately as to who the new U.S. Senator from Florida would be.
The rumor mill swirled Friday morning as politics watchers scrambled in the wake of TV reports to find out if the oft-repeated rumor that Martinez would be leaving the world of Capitol Hill fundraisers and K Street lobbyists behind was true. Soon thereafter, his resignation letter surfaced and Martinez was on a plane to Orlando.
The first Cuban-American to serve in the U.S. Senate never seemed a big fan of D.C. politics and sounded happy to be returning full time to his Orlando home.
Martinez told reporters he was in good health and was not pressured in any way to relinquish his position. In fact, there was no over-riding factor forcing the decision. It was simply time to go back to his state and his family, he said.
“They have made many sacrifices,” Martinez said of his family. “I look forward to the opportunity for us not only to reminisce but the opportunity to move on with our lives.”
With Martinez’s resignation, the attention quickly turned to whom Gov. Charlie Crist would appoint to sit in the U.S. Senate chambers as the junior senator of Florida since Crist will run for the seat himself next year.
If Crist appointed himself to the D.C.-based job, Lieutenant Gov. Jeff Kottkamp would automatically become governor. Crist immediately said he would not appoint himself.
Former secretary of state and veteran Tallahassee lawyer Jim Smith’s name rose to the top of the likely appointee list early Friday.
Former Gov. Bob Martinez and former GOP Sen. Connie Mack were also named as possible fill-ins.
Former House Speaker John Thrasher said moving Smith into the seat was “a done deal.” Smith, however, was on a Colorado golf course and couldn’t be reached for comment.
KATHLEEN HAUGHNEY with THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA contributed to this report.