The field began taking shape when U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, R-Fort Myers, announced he would seek a fifth term in the House of Representatives and not run for the U.S. Senate.
A Senate run had been highly anticipated.
At least two possible House candidates said Friday they wouldn’t run, and others who might challenge him are certain to be weighing their options.
After squeaking out a primary victory in 2004, the 43-year-old Mack has since dominated what the Republicans call a “safe seat.”
Mack said family considerations were a primary reason for his decision to not run for the Senate.
“Today is not the time,” Mack said in prepared remarks at the Old Lee Country Courthouse. “Sometimes you have to put family and friends above political ambitions.”
Mack’s decision will keep two Lee County commissioners, Tammy Hall and Ray Judah, out of the House race.
“I was only considering running contingent on Congressman Mack vacating that seat and running for the Senate,” Judah said. “That option is no longer on the table.”
Hall also said she would not run against Mack.
Several others, though, are mulling their options.
Chauncey Goss of Sanibel, son of former CIA director and U.S. Rep. Porter Goss, has said that he is “seriously considering” a shot at his father’s old seat in Washington. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
State Rep. Paige Kreegel of Port Charlotte, who will leave his position after next year’s session because of term limits, has opened a Congressional campaign account.
Jeff Kottkamp, the former lieutenant governor of Florida and state representative from North Fort Myers, also has talked about running.
Calls to Kreegel and Kottkamp were not returned.
A huge field had been gearing up to run in the Republican primary for Mack’s seat.
“I’m flabbergasted,” said Gary Lee about Mack’s announcement. “I thought for sure he would run for the Senate.”
Political science professor Susan MacManus of the University of South Florida said Mack obviously has other priorities.
She said for the sake of the Republican Party, Mack’s announcement 17 months before the 2012 primary is probably a good thing.
“It’s now settled once and for all to make room for some other Republicans,” she said. “Some in the party will praise him for this.”
Mack, who was surrounded by dozens of family, friends and political supporters Friday, said that after talking with his wife, Mary — herself a U.S. congresswoman from California — and his two children, Addison 10, and Connie V, 8, that a Senate campaign would be too difficult.
He said he felt a “sense of relief” in making his decision.
“It’s been a long process. There were days I’d wake up and say, ‘Let’s do it,’” he said. “On other days I would think about the time I’d be away from my young children and wife.
“Now is a time to enjoy being with my family. This is the right thing.”
Some speculated that Mack decided not to run because Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson, with a strong push from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, had a decided advantage over any Republican candidate.
No so, Mack said.
“Politically, I think I could have been successful,” he said.
A recent Mason-Dixon poll showed Mack would have been the top contender against Nelson.
“I’m not going away,” Mack said. “I plan on being very active. One thing won’t change. I will keep hammering away that Nelson is a liberal … that he is getting away fooling people that he is a moderate … he will be exposed.”
Mack said he wouldn’t endorse any candidates at this point.
The field to see who will oppose Nelson in the general election is expected to be packed. Florida Senate president Mike Haridopolos, Mack’s one-time roommate in Tallahassee, has committed to the race, as has former gubernatorial candidate, retired colonel Mike McCalister of Plant City. Expected to join the fray are former House majority leader Adam Hasner, former Sen. George LeMieux and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.
Matt Canter, Democratic senatorial campaign committee communications director, responded.
“The Republican establishment has failed to recruit their top choice for U.S. Senate in Florida,” he said. “The fact that Mack couldn’t even hold his nose and endorse another candidate speaks volumes about Haridopolos’ ethical problems and the failures of other potential candidates.”
— Staff writer Brian Liberatore contributed to this report.via Surprise: Mack says no to run for Senate | The News-Press | news-press.com.