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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Democrats quick to pounce as Marco Rubio jumps back in Florida U.S. Senate race

22

June

With Marco Rubio announcing today that he'll seek re-election to his U.S. Senate seat after all, Democrats were quick to fire off statements this morning blasting the incumbent for going back on his word -- offering a glimpse at the critical attacks they're likely to lob at Rubio in the months ahead.

"Marco Rubio abandoned his constituents, and now he's treating them like a consolation prize," Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy said in a statement. "Unlike Marco Rubio, I love working hard every single day for the people of Florida. From missing the most votes of any Florida senator in nearly 50 years, to seeking to ban abortion even in cases of rape or incest, to repeatedly voting against closing the terrorist gun loophole, Rubio is proving he is only out for himself."

<<< MORE: "Rubio says yes to another Senate run after all" >>>

Minutes after the news of Rubio's decision broke, Murphy's campaign also sent out an urgent fundraising email -- capping off days of pitches for campaign cash that Murphy has made in the build up to Rubio's decision.

News of Rubio's decision came just a few hours after a new Quinnipiac University poll came out, showing that Rubio is Republicans' best hope by a wide margin of beating either Murphy or fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- which endorsed Murphy in the Democratic primary -- similarly blasted Rubio today for his attendance and voting record, his poor showing in Florida's presidential primary in March and his support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"Now, he is cravenly using the deadliest mass shooting in American history as the springboard to go back on his word and further his political career," DSCC spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said in a statement. "They said it couldn't be done, but Marco Rubio's actions, words and votes reveal one of the more self-serving Washington politicians who has always put his political career above the people he represents."

On Tuesday in Tallahassee, Grayson told reporters it would be "delightful" to take Rubio on, and in a Facebook post after Rubio's announcement this morning, he added: "Oh, yes, please. Bring it on."

"While Rep. Grayson is busy passing good, progressive legislation, he welcomes the chance to beat basically two Do-Nothing-Republicans in Patrick Murphy and No-Show Marco this fall," Grayson's campaign manager Mike Ceraso said in a statement this morning. "But it’s shameful that Marco is trying to use the Orlando tragedy to further his 2020 presidential ambitions from a Senate seat that he’s barely sat in. Floridians will see through it. The Trump-Rubio ticket will fail."

Grayson's campaign also sought to raise money off the news, sending out an email blast of its own just after noon.

Democrat Pam Keith -- a Miami labor attorney and former naval officer who was the first candidate from either major party to challenge Rubio when she launched her campaign in November 2014 -- told the Herald/Times that Rubio's change of heart is "not a shocker."

"We kinda knew that his 'word' didn't mean much," she said in a text message. "Nor would he have much appetite for staying out of the spotlight. He does what's best for him. The voters are looking for new ideas and steadfast leadership. Marco Rubio offers neither."

The Florida Democratic Party called Rubio's re-entry into the race "a last ditch-effort to salvage the wreckage of his political career."

"The only thing more inexcusable and embarrassing than Marco Rubio’s failure to accomplish anything of note in the Senate is his callous exploitation of the Orlando tragedy in an effort to kick-start his reelection campaign," state party chairwoman Allison Tant said in a statement.

Tant added: "Republicans and Democrats alike flat-out rejected Rubio this presidential cycle, and Floridians are done tolerating a self-centered opportunist who refuses to do the job he was hired to do. A panicked Senatorial bid will not rehabilitate Marco Rubio’s destroyed reputation. As he’s said time and time again, Marco Rubio will be a private citizen in January of 2017."

Two other Democrats entered the U.S. Senate race by qualifying this week for the ballot: Jacksonville attorney Reginald Luster and and California real estate developer "Rocky" Roque De La Fuente of Orlando.

"If you look at all the promises he made during the campaign, he's been going back and forth," De La Fuente said of Rubio. "I do not believe he did a good job representing us in Florida. We gave him a chance. ... What we need is someone who represents all Hispanics, all African Americans and all of Florida." 

Luster, a political newcomer who joined the race 12 days ago -- long after speculation began that Rubio would seek re-election -- said in a statement today: "My decision to run for U.S. Senator was based on Senator Rubio having done a very poor job in representing the interest of all Floridians. I will represent the interest of all Floridians in the Senate. I have always anticipated that Republican party leaders would pressure a disillusioned, poor-performing incumbent to run for re-election when faced with my campaign."

This post has been updated.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 12:11pm]

    

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