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Bense Skips Senate Bid in Florida, Leaving Field to Harris

Florida state House Speaker Allan Bense (R) announced last week that he will not run for Senate in 2006, despite being courted by national and state Republican Party leaders.

“I greatly appreciate the sincere confidence so many have expressed in me, the enthusiastic encouragement they have given me as well as the candid counsel they have provided,” Bense said in a statement. “However, I believe it would be extremely difficult to fulfill my duties as Speaker while also running for the United States Senate in a campaign that will attract national attention and require a huge commitment of time and energy.”

Bense’s decision leaves Rep. Katherine Harris (R) as the party’s presumptive nominee in the race against Sen. Bill Nelson (D) next year, unless another major figure decides to jump into the race.

Harris plans to officially launch her Senate bid Tuesday in Sarasota, then set off on a five-day “listening tour” with stops around the state.

“I look forward to spending time in every county listening to Floridian’s concerns as well as their dreams for a better tomorrow,” Harris said in a statement. “So much more can be accomplished for our great state. This race is about our citizens and their needs and what we can achieve together for a stronger state.”

Rep. Mark Foley (R) is among those still considering entering the Senate race.

— Lauren W. Whittington

Butler Gets 2 Nods After Brandon Forgoes Bid

Two days after Domino’s Pizza CEO David Brandon signaled that he will not run for the Senate next year, Reps. Candice Miller (R) and Dave Camp (R) have endorsed the Rev. Keith Butler for the GOP nod.

Miller was Republican leaders’ first choice to take on freshman Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) next year, but she declined.

“I enthusiastically endorse Keith in his campaign for the U.S. Senate,” Miller said in a statement. “Over the last few months Keith has proven that he is the type of leader who can serve our state well.”

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis made Brandon’s decision official Wednesday when he released a statement saying Brandon would instead seek re-election to the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents.
— Nicole Duran

Hyde Backs State Senator In Race to Succeed Him

Retiring Rep. Henry Hyde (R) endorsed state Sen. Peter Roskam (R) as his successor last week, describing the state legislator as “a diamond in a sea of zircon.”

Hyde’s endorsement came after Roskam’s path to the GOP nomination had essentially been cleared. State Sen. Carole Pankau (R) announced last month that she would forgo a run for Hyde’s seat after Roskam secured the backing of much of the party establishment in the district. He showed almost $400,000 in the bank at the end of June.

“Peter Roskam fits my specifications for a very able successor,” Hyde said Thursday at a news conference in the district. “He will be a do-something Congressman.”

Democrats have vowed to make the open-seat race in the suburban Chicago district competitive next year. They argue that Roskam is too conservative for the district’s moderate suburban voters.

Still, the Democratic bench is shallow in a district where Republicans hold most local offices. Businesswoman Christine Cegelis (D), who took 44 percent of the vote against Hyde in 2004, is running again.

— L.W.W.

PAC Backs Challenger To Langevin in Primary

Brown University professor Jennifer Lawless has won the backing of the Women Under 40 Political Action Committee in her bid to unseat Rep. James Langevin in the Ocean State’s 2nd district Democratic primary next year.

Lawless says that young women need more representation in Congress.

“Of the 535 Members serving in the House and Senate, only two are women under 40,” she said in a statement announcing the endorsement.

The group has previously backed Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Stephanie Herseth (D-S.D.), Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) and both Linda and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), Lawless noted.

— N.D.