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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

George LeMieux set to enter U.S. Senate race



sen_george_lemieux-cropped-proto-custom_2.jpgGeorge LeMieux is set to enter the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, a possibly contentious contest in which the winner will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

The Buzz is LeMieux will make the announcement next week. He served 16 months in the Senate after being appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist to fill a vacancy created when Mel Matinez quit his term early.

LeMieux never completely concealed his desire to return to the Senate full-time and has spent the months since the November election assembling a team, lining up fundraising commitments and traveling the state. Tonight, according to Twitter, he was in one of the best named places in Florida -- Sopchoppy -- for the Wakulla County Ronald Reagan Black Tie & Blue Jeans Affair.

LeMieux, 41, generally impressed conservatives during his interim stint, hewing the party line and joining in the criticism of President Obama. He distanced himself from his former boss, Crist, who was forced to leave the GOP in his race against Marco Rubio. But the affiliation is certain to be an issue in the primary.

So far only one major candidate has declared, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos. Former State Rep. Adam Hasner also is seriously weighing a bid.

A new poll released this week showed LeMieux faring a percentage point better against Nelson than Haridopolos and Hasner, though Democrat Nelson still has a double digit lead.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 31, 2011 11:12pm]


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