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Because I’m a Florida Boy. . .

August 7, 2009


I was very shocked that my state senator, Sen. Mel Martinez, a native Cuban and former chairman of the Republican National Committee,announced that he will step down from his Senate seat this summer, shocking his supporters as well as Senate colleagues. With him stepping down, it will and add a new twist in the race to replace him.

Martinez, 62, has long insisted that he wouldn’t resign before his term ends in 2011, when he had already planned to retire. But citing personal reasons, the Florida Republican told staff and allies that he will step down before the end of August.

Sen. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 in Senate Republican leadership, said he wasn’t aware Friday morning of Martinez’s decision to step aside, saying he was “shocked” to hear about it.

“He’s a great guy – a good senator,” Kyl told POLITICO.

Added one senior Florida Republican operative: “This was a closely-held and guarded secret and came as a surprise to all of us.”

In a statement, Martinez thanked his supporters during his 12 years in public office, and said that he had worked in the Senate for “families struggling to keep their homes, their jobs, and their confidence that our country is safe” and said he had fought against the “oppression” of the Cuban regime. He said his resignation would take effect when a successor is appointed to fill out the remainder of his term.

“My priorities have always been my faith, my family and my country and at this stage in my life, and after nearly twelve years of public service in Florida and Washington, it’s time I return to Florida and my family,” Martinez said. “I look forward to continuing to be an active and constructive voice on issues vital to Florida and our nation, and being an active member of Florida’s Republican Party.”

Martinez will discuss his decision at a news conference in Orlando at 3:00p.m.

Martinez has been rumored to be interested in the presidential opening at Florida State University, but had previously denied the speculation. The position just opened up in June, after university president T.K. Wetherell announced he was stepping down.

Martinez is the second Republican senator in the last several weeks to announce resignation plans, joining Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.). Hutchison said she would probably be resigning in October or November, paving the way for a May 2010 special election in Texas.

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