Sen. Mel Martinez announced Friday he is resigning from chairman of the RNC.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Florida Sen. Mel Martinez stepped down Friday as general chairman of the Republican National Committee, after serving just nine months on the job.
Martinez, who is the GOP’s most prominent Latino lawmaker, said he accomplished his goal of helping put the RNC in the best position for the 2008 elections.
“It was my goal as General Chairman to lead the Party as it established the structure and raised the resources necessary to support our Presidential candidate and ensure Republican victories next November,” the Florida senator said in a prepared statement released by the RNC. “I believe we have accomplished those goals. That’s why it is the appropriate time for me to step down as General Chairman and continue to focus my energy on serving my constituents in Florida.”
While two GOP sources tell CNN that Martinez does believe he accomplished what he set out to do at the RNC, the sources noted that he also thinks serving in this national post has contributed to a decline in his political standing back home. Martinez is convinced he needs to focus more on his personal politics, the sources said. The senator is not on the ballot in 2008, but he is up for re-election in 2010.
Martinez officially became general chairman in January, when his selection by President Bush was endorsed by the national committee. Bush extended that offer last November, just after Republicans lost control of the House and Senate. Martinez initially declined when then-White House political adviser Karl Rove called to ask him to take the post. But he accepted when the president followed up with a personal appeal. Bush praised Martinez Friday in a statement from the White House shortly after the RNC announced the senator was stepping down.
“As General Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Mel has effectively communicated our party's commitment to addressing the issues most important to all Americans,” Martinez said. “His message of hope and opportunity has resonated throughout America and strengthened support for our agenda. Because of his leadership, more Americans understand the Republican Party’s efforts to grow our economy, support our troops, strengthen our schools, and protect our country.”
At the same time Martinez became the general chairman, longtime national party operative Mike Duncan of Kentucky was chosen to be the RNC chairman. Duncan runs the day-to-day affairs of the committee, while Martinez served more in a fundraising and spokesman's role. Duncan will stay on as chairman, and Bush expressed confidence in his ability to lead the national party.
“Mike Duncan has demonstrated that he is an effective Chairman who will help our party win in the next election,” Bush said in the statement. “I have confidence in Mike’s leadership and look forward to continuing to work with him.”
– CNN Chief National Correspondent John King