WASHINGTON (CNN) - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist tapped Friday one of his former aides, George LeMieux, to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez.
LeMieux - like Crist and Martinez - is a Republican. He will serve out the remainder of Martinez's term, which expires in January 2011.
Martinez released a statement calling LeMieux a "bright, capable, and an accomplished administrator" and promised "a smooth transition."
Florida Democrats immediately blasted the pick, arguing in a statement that LeMieux's "only qualification is being Charlie Crist's crony."
"Today, Charlie Crist decided to play political games with the public's trust by appointing George LeMieux to the U.S. Senate," said Karen Thurman, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party.
"This glaring example of political cronyism is the last thing Florida needed while we face these tough economic times and the Congress is tackling critical issues such as health insurance reform and global warming," Thurman added.
Martinez was first elected to the Senate in 2004. He previously announced in December his intention to retire at the end of his term.
Crist, in turn, announced in May that he would not seek a second term as governor and instead would run for Martinez's seat in the 2010 election.
Three weeks ago, Martinez said he had changed his mind and decided to resign his seat as soon as a replacement could be named. He stated that he had decided to resign of his "own free will."
"There is no impending reason," he said. "It's only my desire to move on and to get on with the rest of my life."
Martinez is the only Hispanic Republican in the Senate. He recently joined eight other Republicans in voting to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Martinez is also one of six Republican senators who have stated they would not seek re-election next year. But the Florida senator is the second Republican who has decided to leave before the curtain drops on the 111th Congress next fall.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, recently announced her intention to quit the Senate three years before her term expires, in order to run for governor next year.
The five other Republicans who are retiring are Missouri Sen. Kit Bond, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning and Ohio Sen. George Voinovich.
Two Democrats will not run in 2010: Illinois Sen. Roland Burris and Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman. The Democrats lost their filibuster-proof 60-seat Senate majority this week with the death of Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Republicans must defend 19 seats next year, and Democrats must protect 18.
–CNN's John King and Mark Preston contributed to this report
I wouldn't complain, after all actions speak louder than words. A few weeks in office ought to tell the country this guy is more than a joke. But then what do you expect from republicans, someone honest? caring? intelligent? ha ha ha ha.
gov christ – you just lost my vote!
God Bless President Obama, VP Biden, the First Families and "Bo"
Crist is playing political games? Then what do you call what is going on in Massachusetts? Dems really out to just stay quiet about Senate appointments right now.
It could be worst... I remember one time when I was in Brazil and they were making this story about their senators in a local TV news channel, long story short there was a senator who died of natural causes and, following the local laws, they gave his seat to the man he had previously appointed to be his substitute in case of need: his best buddy, a very educated and calm illiterate mister of ZERO political experience...
It doesn't matter the idiot libs couldn't get Healthcare done with 60 votes. Thanks to the moderate dems! What is one less going to matter.
Obama and the leftist are on the deck of the Titanic staring down a big Iceberg!
..yes, democraps, and FL didn't have to change laws to put the man the gov wanted into office.,,,(like MA).
Charlie Crist may actually go down in history as one of if not the worst governor Florida has ever had. HE has no sense of anything but his own welfare. Wake up Floridians – DO NOT put this bozo in the US Senate!
Rubio would be another obama, young and inexperienced.We have seen what that gets you. More ignorant libs in power.
Marco Rubio is on the way!
so, florida democrat's are crying foul because they believe the republican governor in a republican state* should have replaced a retiring republican senator with a democrat?
*up until 2008 election which had mixed results with obama barely squeeking by... assuming there was no voter fraud (ha ha).
Hey now lets all be honest and admit the appointment of a republican to replace a republican is hardly shocking and I personally am not offended by that part because I would expect a democrat to appoint another democrat.
Now is this a case of cronyism? Yes and that part does bother me, he should have nominated someone else.
Charlie Crist appoints a crony to the Senate. Not surprising. Charlie talks a good game and is photogenic, but he is as much of an opportunist as they come. Given the "For Sale" sign on Florida Republicans, one can only wonder what the quid pro quo will be for Mr. LeMieux. Follow the money - you are sure to find a developer or other special interest close behind.
Crist shoud have appointed Rubio. However George LeSeatwarmer should be given a chance. Although a political hack, George is familiar with the issues and might to a better job than Crist himself. Florida will be represented by an appointed senator for 2 1/2 years. Too bad Florida doesn't have special elections (can't trust the people).
marco rubio for sure now
Lousy choice. Should have picked someone that was more conservative. Rubio would have been a good choice.
George LePlaceholder should be given a chance. Although a political hack, George is familiar with the issues and might do a better job than Crist himself. Florida will now be represented by an appointed senator for 2 1/2 years. Too bad Florida doesn't have special elections (just can't trust the people). Rubio is a gasbag who panders to the far right fringe. The Cuban vote will go Democratic.
Oh poor democrats, well, your Massachusetts buddies will make up for it once they change the law back to allow their DEMOCRAT governor to appoint an immediate replacement, you know, the law they changed when they had a REPUBLICAN governor to keep him from appointing a REPUBLICAN Senator.