FORT MYERS — Scratch U.S. Rep. Connie Mack off the list of possible Senate contenders in 2012.
Mack, R-Fort Myers, announced Friday he would not be running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Bill Nelson. Mack said the timing wasn’t right to put his family through a statewide campaign.
“Politically it is the right time,” he said. “But as I said, it’s not the right time for my young family.”
He may not be up for a statewide campaign, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be sitting on the sidelines in 2012.
While political watchers had speculated he would seek the GOP nomination for Senate, Mack instead said he planned to seek reelection in the upcoming election cycle.
That could throw a wrench in the plans of several local politicians who had been rumored to be considering a run to replace him.
Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah and Naples City Councilman Gary Price have begun considering a run to replace Mack. Also in the mix is Chauncey Goss, son of former Congressman Porter Goss.
Burt Saunders, who ran as an independent candidate for the District 14 seat against Mack in 2008, said he was a bit shocked that Mack chose not to vie for the senate seat after drawing such attention. Saunders isn’t planning to run now that he knows Mack plans to stay, he said.
“But with Chauncey Goss interested in running, that will make for a very interesting race,” Saunders said. “We could have two individuals with two fantastic last names.”
Goss, however, isn’t committing.
“The proposition for me is running for something more than running against someone,” Goss said. “I’m not waiting for a magic poll, announcement or phone call. I’m trying to make up my own mind. I haven’t made a decision yet.”
James Lloyd Roach, D-Cape Coral, filed his paperwork with the state and is vying again for a congressional seat, although due to redistricting, he said he’s not sure he’ll be running against Mack this time around.
Mack may have his eye on reelection, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t committed to getting Nelson out of office.
“Sometimes you have to put your family and friends above political ambition, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to shy away from the political fight in ‘012. I will continue to be a voice, I will continue to hold Sen. Nelson’s feet to the fire,” Mack said. “You can’t go to Washington and be one of the most liberal senators in Washington and then come back to Florida and claim that he is a moderate.”
Nelson won his seat after Mack’s father, Connie Mack III, retired in 2001. Nelson, a Democrat, is seeking a third term.
“It’s time for him to go,” Mack said.
Six Republican candidates filed their candidacy with the Florida Division of Elections as of Thursday. Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolis has also expressed his desire to run for the Republican nomination.
Mack made his announcement on the steps of the historic Lee County Courthouse surrounded by a small crowd of supporters. The announcement, however, surprised many of those in attendance.
“That’s not what we expected,” said Cape Coral resident Pat Miller.
Miller and her husband, George, attended the event Friday to show their support for Mack. While both said they were disappointed with his decision, both said they understood.
So did Pine Island resident Kiko Villalon, who said he’s supported Mack since he was first elected. His decision not to run, Villalon said, wasn’t going to change that.
“I participate in his way of thinking,” Villalon said.
Mack was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2004, and his congressional district covers parts of Charlotte, Collier and Lee counties.
Staff reporter Kelly Farrell and the AP contributed to this report.