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Martinez Eyeing Early Exit as Crist Looks at Senate Seat

In what could be a Sunshine State one-two punch, multiple Republican sources are confirming that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) is giving serious consideration to running for Senate — and that Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) is contemplating resigning from his seat before his term is up next year. Martinez has already announced he will not run for re-election when his first term expires in 2010. Crist, according to sources, has had multiple serious conversations about running for Senate with both Martinez and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas). Martinez’s office is batting down the speculation that he might leave office early. “What he has said stands, that he looks forward to serving out the rest of his term,” Martinez spokesman Ken Lundberg said. But fueling the speculation that Crist is poised to enter the Senate race is the fact that only one potential Republican candidate is in the process of building a campaign team for a run at Martinez’s seat: Rep. Vern Buchanan. Additionally, popular state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink — widely viewed as Democrats’ top recruit — has already said no to a Senate run. Sources say most Republicans are waiting on the sidelines because they want to see what Crist does before jumping into the Senate race, and explain further that Sink could be eyeing an open gubernatorial seat in 2010, when Crist’s first term is up. Florida’s lieutenant governor is a Republican and would appoint Martinez’s successor if he and Crist both resign prematurely. Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac declined to comment on the speculation, saying only that the governor is focused on his job. The NRSC could not be reached for comment.

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