(CNN) - Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bush's younger brother, has decided he will not seek Florida's open senate seat in 2010, setting off what's sure to be a wide-open and hotly contested battle to replace Republican Sen. Mel Martinez.
In a statement released Tuesday, the younger Bush said the time isn't right him to return to public life.
“While the opportunity to serve my state and country during these turbulent and dynamic times is compelling, now is not the right time to return to elected office," Bush said in the statement. “In the coming months and years, I hope to play a constructive role in the future of the Republican Party, advocating ideas and policies that solve the pressing problems of our day.
Bush was elected governor of Florida in 1998 and 2002 and was considered a leading contender for the seat set to be vacated by Martinez. His presence in the race would have added immediate star power to a contest Democrats are likely to make their top target in 2010.
But the former governor, who has largely remained out of the spotlight over the past two years, would likely have been hindered by his close association with the unpopular outgoing president, whose approval ratings continue to hove around 30 percent nationally and even lower in Florida.
But Jeb Bush left office in 2007 with approval ratings well over 60 percent, a sign he would likely have been insulated in the state from his brother's unpopularity, and among Florida Republican's best hopes for retaining the seat.
Since exiting the governor's office, Bush has served on the board of Tenet Healthcare Corporation. He also joined the now-defunct investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2007 as an adviser to its private equity business.
According to published reports, Democrats view Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer, as the candidate best positioned to run for the seat. Before Martinez's announcement, Sink suggested she was uninterested in the run, but it's likely she now may reconsider.
Democrats are also considering Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a high-profile supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential bid, though Schultz's congressional spokesman said it is unlikely she will run. Other Democrats mentioned include Reps. Kendrick Meek and Allen Boyd.
On the Republican side, Reps. Vern Buchanan and Connie Mack are said to be interested, as well as several GOP state officials.
“I think it will mean a very bloody primary for us and possibly for the Democrats. His candidacy would have cleared the field for Republicans. I cannot imagine the craziness,” a Florida GOP strategist told CNN Political Editor Mark Preston.
The strategist said that several Republicans could now jump in the race including U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, state Senate President Jeff Atwater and former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.
The GOP strategist noted that Democrats might also see a primary because Bush “had the ability to knock the Democrats out,” who might have taken a pass.
Should Sen. Mel Martinez retire from the Senate early, it would avoid a Republican primary fight because Republican Gov. Charlie Crist would make the appointment and give that appointee the power of incumbency.
Not the right time for the smarter brother. Nope, not after what Dubya did to the GOP brand.
Jeb will just have to go into seclusion and wait to see if the country needs him in, say, 8 years.
Thank you, Jeb!
Why in the world would he run? The reason the Democrats took over Congress and the White House in the last two elections is because of a man named Bush. The reason half the world hates us is because of a man named Bush. The reason 70% of our citizens had 8 years of high anxiety is because of a man named Bush. The reason gay rights was pushed backward 20 years is because of a man named Bush. The reason evangelicals are not trusted anymore with public office and empirically researched science is because of a man named Bush. The list is endless and Jeb Bush is a smart man in at least one instance for staying out of the limelight. I would suggest he stay out forever. The father spoke of a new world order and George W. is the only one in the world who took it to heart. God help us all.
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I don't think he is cut from the same genes as his brother and father. This is the only Bush that seems to have a brain. Jeb was an excellant governor in Florida when I lived there. Too bad his last name is Bush. As a democrat, he is the only Republican I would vote into the Senate. Not too sure about the presidency.
Thank the Lord above!! We have had enough Bushes!!!!
Another example of God's mercy.
Given the Bush family's obsession with enriching the military-industrial complex and Big Oil cronies at the expense of foreign civilians' and US soldiers' lives, as well as American citizens' jobs, homes, and dreams –
any American who will ever vote for a Bush again either has a vested interest, or is certifiably insane.
Thank GOD!!!! NO MORE BUSHES!!!
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
the time isn't right for him to return to politics.. he is waiting for 2012 (or more likely 2016) when he can run for president. He will run in 2012 if things have not dramatically improved since Obama will be vulnerable if things have improved he will wait until 2016 and let the idiots like palin run in 2012. This is not somehting to be happy about folks it just shows he has good handlers
If Jeb still believes he can better serve his country as manager of their trailer park, who am I to disagree? Your country loves you Jeb
Good news for the dems and bad news for the repubs. Jeb would have won in Florida, no doubt about it.
Florida here – thank God that he's not running for our Senate seat. Another Bush – smarter and savvier to be sure, but still a right-winger who aggravated a LOT of Floridians when he served as Gov –
I guess the twins, Jenna and Barbara?, better step up and get ready...grandpa bush will have their name on the ballot soon!
That's a disappointment. He was a great Governor. He would've served Florida well. At least Mel Martinez will retire.
As for the Jeb Bush haters- you haven't seen the last of him. Hate to break it to you.
Experience assures me That the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. As Americans we can't take the chance now , If Jeb goes out and proves this saying to be more than untrue and does some huge , great things for the country it might happen for him, but it's stacked against him.
He is a much wiser man than his cowboy brother!
That family needs time in obscurity maybe there banking on peoples short attention spans.
not too sure what the fuss is about-really thought a man were to be judged on his own merit. Jeb notwithstanding the Florida recount assertions seems not to be too closely cut from the Bush cloth. Lets be democratic yet fair people.
I give Jeb Bush credit for making those decisions! I heard rumor he might run for the presidency and that's a fatal mistake we've had enough Bushes running and ruining this country we surely don't any another Bush to destroy it!
No more Bushes now or never, I don't give a hoot what his old man says, if he felt that way they he should stacked the deck to help Jeb and not the fool
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww So Disappointed.
:-) :-) :-) Early April Fool's Joke!