Martinez has left the building. It’s your ball, Charlie!
Mel Martinez has shown more life in the past few days than he has in his five years as Florida’s junior senator. First he voted with eight fellow Republicans to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. Then, like a certain first-term Alaska governor, he resigned. The first Cuban-American elected senator is now the first Cuban-American to leave before his term is over.
Martinez’s desertion seems to come as a surprise to the governor of his state. Gov. Charlie Crist is running for the seat Martinez was recently keeping warm. Crist will have to appoint a replacement, and even though his pandering and selling out to win the 2010 election lately seem to know no bounds, apparently even he has moral limits. Who knew? Charlie swears he’s not going to choose himself to fill the Palin-esque vacancy. So who will he pick?
Crist says he won’t choose himself to fill the Palin-esque vacancy. Uh-oh, he might be running against an incumbent.
Crist has to be careful, first and foremost, that he selects someone who will absolutely, positively not get up to Washington and decide to stay. He must be sure they would never, ever decide to run because then he’d be campaigning against an incumbent. On the other hand, they can’t hate politics so much that they won’t participate. And — oh yeah — they need to have 16 months to waste.
The order might not be that tall. In the 24 hours or so since Martinez revealed he was outta here, several names were already being bandied. One is former state attorney general Jim Smith. Smith ran unsuccessfully for governor as a Democrat in 1986, but took his loss as a signal to change parties. Now is he is a lobbyist with one of Tallahassee’s top-billing firms, Smith & Ballard, which just happens to represent the health care industry. What could be better, from a Republican point of view, than having a health care lobbyist casting votes in the Senate while Obama is pushing for reform?
There are other names in contention, but they’re mostly people who would likely want to hold the office on a continuing basis, so I would not expect Charlie to pick one of them. In other words, don’t get your hopes up, Jeb Bush.