(CNN) - The highest ranking Democrat in Florida's state Senate on Thursday endorsed Republican-turned-independent Gov. Charlie Crist in his bid for the U.S. Senate.
In doing so, Florida state Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson passed on an opportunity to endorse fellow Democrat, Rep. Kendrick Meek.
Lawson, known as the "Dean of the Legislature" for his tenure as the longest serving member of Florida's state Senate, is the only African-American state senator from North Florida; Meek is Florida's first ever African-American U.S. Senate nominee.
"Florida desperately needs an independent senator in Washington who will fight for good jobs and economic opportunity, a quality education for every child, and Social Security for all of our seniors regardless of what the political party bosses want," Lawson said in a statement. "Charlie Crist will be exactly that Senator, and I am proud to endorse his candidacy."
Crist said he was "honored" to receive the endorsement.
Lawson mounted a primary challenge against incumbent Democratic Rep. Alan Boyd in Florida's 2nd congressional district, but came up short in last week's election with 48.5 percent of the vote. The national Democratic grassroots network Organizing for America, which is run out of the Democratic National Commmittee, backed Boyd in the race, while Meek did not endorse either candidate.
"This is all about Al Lawson," Meek's campaign said in a statement provided to the Tallahassee Democrat. "We stand firm with our Big Bend supporters who need a strong Democrat like Kendrick Meek to fight for the middle class in the U.S. Senate."
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted August 11-16 showed Crist leading his Republican challenger Marco Rubio by a 39-32 percent margin. Meek registered at 16 points in the survey.