Top Republicans Pass on Running for Marco Rubio's Senate Seat
Jeff Atwater and Will Weatherford won't be running for Senate
Sen. Marco Rubio is running for president in 2016. He cannot run for reelection to the U.S. Senate at the same time. Ergo that means that the Florida GOP has to find someone else to run for Senate. This should not be a problem. Politicians love to run for offices better than they ones they have, and there are few better offices than a seat in the U.S. Senate that comes without the inconvenience of term limits. Except major Republicans so far are lining up not to announce their candidacies, but rather to announce their disinterest in the seat.
It's almost a cliché when talking about Florida politics to talk about how strong the vaunted Republican "bench" is compared to the Democrats, a bench being a list of strong contenders already in lower officer who would one day make attractive, experienced candidates for higher offices.
Here is a quick impression of Florida political writers waxing on about the supposed strength of the Republican bench: "I notice the Republican bench from across the room. It is hard to miss. Its strong, rippling thighs threaten to burst through its tight slacks at any moment. It's biceps look like basketballs stuffed underneath its dress shirt. It stands nearly a foot taller than anyone else in the room. Half of me worries that it could accidentally kill me with its tremendous power but half of me wants it to pick me up with its strong arms and carry me away to ravage me."
This is how legendarily strong that Republican bench is. Except, no member of that bench is actually coming through to run for Senate.
A recent Public Policy Polling found the somewhat surprising result that Attorney General Pam Bondi might be the Republican's safest chance to keep the seat (largely thanks to her relatively strong name recognition), but on April 8 Bondi announced she wouldn't run for the seat.
That was fine. Despite those poll numbers, the GOP establishment wasn't talking too much about her running for the seat anyway. It was fixated on her cabinet-mate, CFO Jeff Atwater. He polled relatively well, and he has actual legislative experience. He spent time in both the state House and Senate, and was president of the former body. Atwater, however, announced over the weekend that he will not run for the seat.
“While I have certainly taken these words of support under consideration, I will not be a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016,” he said. “I remain committed to only one endeavor and that is to be the best CFO I can be for the people of Florida.”
The third-elected member of the cabinet, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is said to be aiming towards a run for governor in 2018.
Now today, former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, an appealing young gun establishment GOP folks have pegged for a big future much like Rubio before him, announced that he is not interested either.
So much for that strong bench. The strongest sitters on it don't mind keeping it warm for a little while longer. Voter turnout is safer for Republicans in midterm elections anyway. Democrat Senator Bill Nelson's seat will be up then. He'll be 74 at the time, and it's still not totally certain he'll even run again.
Naturally, there are still some Republicans interested in Rubio's seat. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is reportedly considering a run. He's not particularly well known in the state though. A handful of people currently sitting in the U.S. House are also considering the idea of moving to the other side of the Capitol. Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Tom Rooney, Rep. Vern Buchanan, and Rep. David Jolly have all indicated or are reportedly interested in the race.
However, no major Republican has officially entered the race.
Democrats, meanwhile, already have something of a front-runner in announced candidate Rep. Patrick Murphy (despite him being controversial in liberal corners of the party). Rep. Alan Grayson is also a possible candidate.