U.S. Rep. Connie Mack unexpectedly signaled late Wednesday that he will enter the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, apparently convinced other candidates cannot defeat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
"He's getting in the race," adviser David James said in an e-mail. "Making calls, assembling a team. He will have more to say in an announcement in weeks to come."
Mack, R-Fort Myers, considered entering the race earlier this year but decided to focus on his House duties. He was friendly with another candidate, state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who dropped out months ago.
This summer, rumors surfaced that Mack was again interested. Mack brushed those off. But the Republican field has struggled to generate excitement, giving Mack, 44, a new opportunity.
The other candidates are former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner; former Charlie Crist adviser and interim U.S. Sen. George LeMieux; retired Army colonel Mike McCalister; and former Ruth's Chris Steak House CEO Craig Miller.
Mack, whose father served in the Senate, would enjoy greater name recognition than his opponents.
Nelson, first elected in 2000, continues to lead in polls and, not facing a primary race, has focused on raising money. He has $7.5 million in the bank.
Mack — Cornelius Harvey McGillicuddy IV is his given name — has pros and cons in a GOP primary. He voted against the bank bailout and the stimulus. But he also supported funding for embryonic stem cell research and was a vocal critic of Arizona's immigration law, which would have required people to carry immigration papers and present them to police. Mack called it an affront to the freedom of U.S. citizens who may get confused for illegal immigrants.
"This is not the America I grew up in and believe in," he said in April 2010, comparing the law to the Nazi-era Gestapo.