Sen. Mel Martinez of Fla. won't seek re-election
By BRENDAN FARRINGTON and MARK WANGRIN
December 3, 2008
By BRENDAN FARRINGTON and MARK WANGRIN
December 3, 2008
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, who has struggled to boost public support because of his close ties to President George W. Bush, announced Tuesday he will not seek a second term in 2010, saying he wants to spend more time with his family.
The Republican pushed an immigration reform bill that was unpopular with many in his party, and his seat was widely seen as vulnerable in two years. However, Martinez rejected suggestions he faced difficult re-election prospects in a state won last month by Democrat Barack Obama.
"I've faced much tougher obstacles in my life," Martinez said. "My decision is not based on re-election prospects, but on what I want to do with the next eight years of my life."
Martinez, 62, was elected in 2004 after serving as the U.S. secretary for Housing and Urban Development during the Bush administration. He served as general chairman of the Republican National Committee for 10 months, resigning in October 2007.
Martinez was born in Cuba. At the age of 15, he fled to America as part of a Catholic humanitarian effort called Operation Pedro Pan. Catholic charitable groups provided Martinez, who was alone and spoke virtually no English, a temporary home at two youth facilities. He then lived with two foster families, with whom he remains close. He was reunited with his family in Orlando in 1966.
In appointing Martinez in 2001, Bush said he was "the embodiment of the American Dream," a sentiment he echoed in a statement Tuesday.
Martinez "has been a source of inspiration to people all across our country" by becoming the first Cuban-American cabinet member and U.S. senator, Bush said in the statement.
"In addition, he has been a passionate voice for freedom in his native country," Bush said.
Martinez said during his announcement that he wants to continue to encourage the hopes and dreams of other Hispanics.
"I always tried very much to be a mentor and role model, particularly to young people," Martinez said.
Martinez played a big role in getting Congress to pass a bill attempting to save Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman at the center of a bitter right-to-die battle.
He also worked to protect oil drilling off Florida's coast, helped secure the release of a Florida woman being held prisoner in Vietnam for political activism and added language to a health care bill the Senate passed that would double Medicare fraud penalties.
A Quinnipiac University poll taken last month showed only 36 percent said Martinez should be re-elected, and 38 percent said he wasn't deserving.
Also, as of Sept. 30, Martinez reported only $1.2 million in cash on hand for his possible re-election bid, meaning he would have faced raising millions more to be competitive in Florida's expensive media markets. Earlier this year, Martinez agreed to pay $99,000 in fines for his 2004 campaign's violations of election laws, including accepting more than $313,000 that exceeded legal contribution limits.
Speculation about who would run for Martinez' seat began immediately after his announcement.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush is seriously considering a run and has received e-mails of encouragement from many party and elected officials, according to a former political adviser close to Bush who spoke on condition of anonymity because the former governor is not ready to publicly discuss his plans.
Several Florida congressman also are considered potential candidates, including Democratic Reps. Kendrick Meek and Allen Boyd and Republican Reps. Vern Buchanan, along with about a half dozen other former or current state officials.
Associated Press Writer Brendan Farrington reported from Tallahassee, Fla. Associated Press writers Tamara Lush and Curt Anderson in Miami contributed to this report.
My intention was to forget about politics until sometime after Christmas but I couldn't pass this up. Martinez says he wants to spend more time with his family. That could very well be true. I think it's interesting that "spending more time with the family" seems to be the number 1 reason for not running for re-election among those whose job may be in jeopardy.
I don't care why Martinez is giving up his seat, but I don't think it's because of his ties to Bush. In 2010, Bush will be the distant past and two years into Obama's presidency. More importantly, and I believe more to the point, it will be six years into Martinez' senatorship.
I personally feel that Martinez has been a huge disappointment. My disappointment began, and is lodged in the perception that no one in his office actually read the email that was sent to his office. I sent several emails to his office, both before and after he was elected.
Now, to be honest, I did get actual answers to emails before he was elected. My first email simply asked if Mr-then-campaigning-to-be-Senator Martinez was familiar with the Fair Tax and if so, did he support it or not. I didn't even care why he didn't support it; at that point, I just wanted to know where he stood. I got a response from an underling saying that the candidate wasn't familiar with it. I asked if someone could advise him on the FairTax, then let me know if Martinez was for or against. This person and I corresponded for a few months during the election. I never got an answer to my question, but at least a live person responded.
After he was elected, canned responses became the norm. It wasn't just the Fair Tax; I sent questions on other topics. I finally decided an experiment was in order. I sent an email, got the expected response and forwarded back to his office. And got the same email from him that he sent to my first email, that I sent back to his office.
You see, in order to send the email, you have to specify the topic of the email. The very non-committal response was tailored to that topic, said nothing, and sent automatically.
I finally sent one last email, figuring I knew the response I'd get. I asked my question and advised in the last paragraph that if I got a canned response he could forget about my vote in the next election. Can you guess what happened?
Now, I'm not so full of myself to think that my email swayed his opinion of running again in any way, shape, or form. But, I wonder if he got the message that enough Florida voters were hacked off at Republicans in general that he thought he might have some trouble in 2010.
I don't expect any better from whoever replaces him.
But, I am ever the optimist.
I'll bet Christine Jennings hopes that Vern Buchanan will run for Martinez' seat. She might actually have a chance to get elected in the 13th District.