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Rep. Boyd May Enter Florida Senate Election

Add Rep. Allen Boyd’s (D-Fla.) name to the short list of Democrats seriously considering entering the race to succeed Sen. Bob Graham (D), who is running for president.

“I’ve not ruled it out,” Boyd said Tuesday. “I’m taking a look.”

Boyd, a farmer and former state legislator who was elected to the Tallahassee-based 2nd district in 1996, is a leading Blue Dog in the House and has served on the Appropriations Committee since 1999.

Sources said Boyd will make a decision about the race by the end of May, after his son graduates from high school.

If he enters the race, Boyd would be the most conservative Democrat in the primary. He could also be the only Democrat not from South Florida, an important asset that could strengthen the party’s chances in a general election.

“He’s an attractive candidate,” said one Florida Democratic source, “if he can raise the money.”

Boyd reported $555,000 in his campaign account at the end of last year, after raising $835,000 last cycle. His most expensive campaign was the 1996 race, in which he raised and spent just over $800,000.

If Boyd does run for Senate, he is likely to face at least one of his House colleagues.

Rep. Peter Deutsch (D), who had $2.5 million in the bank as of Dec. 31, appears to be all but in the race as long as Graham is not.

Graham, who has filed presidential paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and is expected to formally kick off his candidacy in early April, has not definitively said whether he will run for re-election if he is unsuccessful in his White House bid. The filing deadline for the Senate race is in May 2004.

Deutsch has said he plans to begin raising money for a Senate bid next month and has a fundraiser scheduled for April 12.

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Mayor Mayor Alex Penelas (D) has said he will file papers on April 2 to formally enter the Senate race. Like Deutsch, he has said he will not run if Graham does.

Democratic Reps. Alcee Hastings and Jim Davis are also among those considering the Senate contest, although Davis is seen as more likely to run for governor in 2006.

Sen. Jon Corzine (N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has already talked to most of the candidates interested in the race, although the committee will not endorse in the primary.

Corzine said he hasn’t met with Boyd yet but indicated that a conversation may be on the horizon.

“I’m going to be in Florida for both of the next two weekends,” Corzine said. “I expect I will run across a number of these people” interested in running.

On the Republican side, Rep. Mark Foley and former Rep. Bill McCollum remain the two contenders out front in the race. McCollum has already said he’s running, and Foley plans an official announcement later this spring. Radio personality Andy Martin has also announced.

But according to newspaper reports this week, the White House and other top Republicans are trying to lure Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez into the Senate race. Martinez, who is Cuban-American and a former Orange County chairman, is seen by many in the party as a dream candidate.

However, Martinez sought to quell the Senate speculation, telling the Orlando Sentinel in Wednesday’s edition he is committed to his current job. Martinez is widely viewed as a likely candidate for governor in 2006.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman George Allen (Va.) on Tuesday would not confirm or deny whether he’d spoken to Martinez about the race. While stressing that two credible contenders are already in the race, Allen also praised the HUD secretary.

“I do think that in the event that Secretary Martinez would want to run for the United States Senate, he’d be a very, very strong credible candidate,” he said.

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