Fl Senator Mel Martinez resigning-Will Charlie Crist Appoint Himself?

Mel Martinez resigning - The Scorecard - POLITICO.com

Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) will be resigning from the Senate, according to several senior Republican sources familiar with his thinking.

He made the announcement at a morning staff meeting, where he said he will not be returning to the Senate after the August recess.

Martinez announced he wasn’t seeking re-election to the Senate last December, but he had insisted that he would be serving out the remainder of his term, which expires in 2011.

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

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

It’s the second time that Martinez has resigned from a high-profile Republican office in the last several years. He stepped down as chairman of the Republican National Committee in October 2007 to focus more on his legislative responsibilities as a senator.

The decision adds a twist to the Florida Senate race. Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.) is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, and he would be tasked with appointing a candidate to fill the seat until Martinez's term expires.

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.

Martinez is the second Republican senator in the last several weeks to announce their resignation, 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.

With Chris Frates and Manu Raju


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