Friday, August 7, 2009

Martinez Resigns in Florida - Who Will Crist Appoint?

Breaking news this morning: Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) is due to resign by the end of August according to several Republican sources in Washington.

The reason why has not yet been revealed. One comment under the Politico post on the resignation says "Where there's smoke there's fire?" But Martinez has been rumored to be interested in the presidential opening at Florida State University. However, he has denied the rumor in the past.

Either way, it came as a shock to many in the Republican community. One senior GOP operative in Florida says “This was a closely-held and guarded secret and came as a surprise to all of us.” Martinez apparently made the announcement to his legislative staff earlier this morning.

Of course, he already had announced he would be stepping down from the post last year. That prompted Governor Charlie Crist and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio to run for the GOP nomination for Martinez's seat.

When we broke the news on Twitter (about 45 minutes ago) one of our followers asked "Hello interm Senator Crist?"

As governor, Crist has the power to appoint the replacement Senator who will fill in for the duration of Martinez's term - and he very much has the power to appoint himself.

But according to the Scorecard blog:

"National and Florida Republican sources say it's near-certain that Crist will not appoint himself, and instead is expected to appoint a placeholder to fill the seat through the 2010 election.

Taking the seat now and leaving Tallahassee early would risk hurting his solid political standing, Crist allies say, and is unnecessary given his strong positioning to claim the seat next year."

Nonetheless, if he doesn't appoint himself, Crist would have to fill in the seat with someone he is sure would not gain any ambitions to hold the seat in 2010. Luckily for him, he has the rest of the month to make such a decision.

UPDATE #1: Apparently he cited "personal reasons" when he told his staff he was resigning.

UPDATE #2: Martinez had sent a letter to friends that thanks his supporters and touts his work on helping "families struggling to keep their homes" and his opposition to oppression in Cuba.

From the letter:

"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. 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."

He will also be holding a press conference at 3:00pm EST from Orlando.

UPDATE #3: Some are suggesting Crist could appoint his primary opponent - Marco Rubio - to fill the spot and then compete with the interim senator for the 2010 election.

In a statement, Rubio said Crist needs to take "great care" in his decision:

"Florida deserves an interim senator who will go to Washington and serve as a true check on President Obama's push for more wasteful government spending, government-run health care and cap-and-trade," Rubio said. "The last thing Florida needs is a U.S. senator that will stand with President Obama instead of challenging the wrong direction he is leading our country and offering constructive conservative solutions moving forward."

But Florida's GOP operatives are saying that Crist is likely to appoint one of three top Republicans: former FL Secretary of State Jim Smith, FL GOP Chair Jim Greer, or - the most named individual - former U.S. Senator Connie Mack (R-FL). They also say none of these individuals would try to compete with Crist come 2010.

UPDATE #4: Gov. Crist will NOT appoint himself. He told reporters that much as he was boarding a plane to Tampa this morning.

UPDATE #5: Much thanks to our Twitter friend, @NJDemocrat, for finding this bit of information:

Gov. Charlie Crist to appoint former Secretary of State Jim Smith to the spot through 2010.

"It's a done deal," said former House Speaker John Thrasher, an Orange Park Republican close to Martinez.

Smith had supported Tom Gallagher in the 2006 governor's race over Crist. But he's been a jack-of-all trades as a Florida public official, serving as a Democratic attorney general, a Democratic candidate for governor, and Republican secretary of state -- twice.

Crist, who is expected to appoint Smith today, and former House Speaker Marco Rubio are vying for the GOP nomination for the Senate seat.

"He'll be a caretaker," Thrasher said of Smith. "But he's got a great record of public service in this state."

UPDATE #6: Still no verification on who Crist will appoint, and still no word on why Martinez is stepping down. It could very well be another scandal. We'll find out in about an hour and a half from Martinez.

Still nothing found on when exactly we'll see a Crist press conference.

UPDATE #7: Remember when Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) was pressured to pick an African American candidate because President-elect Obama was the only black Senator? Well, it seems that a similar pressure may begin in Florida.

From the AP:

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said she hoped Crist would appoint a Hispanic to follow in Martinez's footsteps, "possibly new blood, maybe not somebody who's been in office but maybe someone who is from the private sector."

Martinez's resignation leaves just one Hispanic in the Senate, Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

UPDATE #8: On that last note, another name has been added to Crist's short list - former Gov. Bob Martinez (R-FL). Not related to the outgoing senator, Bob Martinez has not been in office since 1991. He went on to serve in the first Bush Administration as Drug Czar, and since then has been consulting law firms. He is 74-years-old.

UPDATE #9: Cristian Camera of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has an interesting take on the resignation, as reported by the National Review:

"Governor Crist and Senator Martinez are strong political allies. I have no doubt in my mind this early resignation is a move that was agreed to by Crist and Martinez to somehow benefit Crist’s candidacy. Expect Crist’s choice of a replacement to be a carefully calculated move to benefit him. Possibly a Hispanic and/or a strong conservative to shore up his conservative credentials to the base."

Martinez has that Hispanic credential and Connie Mack and Jim Greer certainly fit the conservative credentials. No sign when we'll find out.

But Martinez is expected to speak to the press any moment now.

UPDATE #10: Martinez has just wrapped up a rather short press conference announcing his intention to resign. He read straght from the letter that was leaked to the press this morning (see Update 2) and - when asked - said he was leaving for no other reason than to "move on with the rest of my life."

He said he has no specific plans as far as what he'll do next, but it will be in the private sector.

There's no reason not to expect that there's something else going on here. No one simply leaves such a high public office for no reason but to "move on" in life. We'll see where this goes in the days to come.

UPDATE #11: In a press statement, Crist did not say who he would be appointing - only that it would be a placeholder. He said his selection will be made in coming weeks.

And evidently former Senator Connie Mack is NOT on the shortlist. According to the updated article on Politico:

"In an interview with the Miami Herald, Mack said that Crist had previously approached him about filling a vacanacy if Martinez resigned, and he said he was not interested."

So unless some breaking news about a Martinez scandal comes up in the next few hours - which may be a little unlikely for a summer Friday afternoon - this should probably be the last update of the day.

1 comment:

Zach W. said...

That's a lot of updates for one blog entry...