Former Attorney General Bill McCollum confirms that he has been calling prominent Republicans about possibly running for U.S. Senate in 2016.
"I certainly have an interest, but I'm just considering it," said McCollum, 70, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate against Bill Nelson in 2000 and lost the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary to a wealthy newcomer named Rick Scott.
McCollum said his phone started ringing with people encouraging him after chief financial officer Jeff Atwater surprised most of Florida's political world by announcing he would not run, and then even more when a mid April Mason-Dixon poll showed him easily beating other potential candidates for Marco Rubio's seat. (He pulled 20 percent support among Republican voters, compared to the next-strongest Republican, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Pinellas at 8 percent support.)
McCollum was by far the most recognized of seven names polled, with 29 percent of Republicans saying they had a favorable opinion of him, 7 percent unfavorable, 39 percent saying they recognized the name and had a neutral opinion, and 25 percent not recognizing him.
"I'm being told by other people in the party that there are concerns that the other potential candidates are not well known as we need to hold the seat," McCollum said of the potential field of Republicans that includes Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and Jeff Miller.
McCollum is in no rush to decide anything, saying he would likely make a firm decision "sometime this summer."
"Maybe someone else will emerge in the meantime," said McCollum, a longtime former congressman from the Orlando area who works at the Denton law firm focusing on state attorney general issues.
'No' to Rubio seat
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, said Thursday he will not run for Rubio's Senate seat, citing his rising clout as a member of the Ways and Means Committee.
"The decision came down to where could I make the biggest difference in serving Florida and improving the lives of the middle class," Buchanan said, "and the answer was pretty clear — as a senior member on the committee that oversees the tax code, Social Security, Medicare and international trade."
Buchanan is in his fifth term. He expressed some interest in running for Senate, but had looked more likely to run for re-election.
Super PAC on way
A new super PAC has formed to help elect U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, to the U.S. Senate. Floridians for a Strong Middle Class is not bound by the $2,700 cap on individual contributions that Murphy's campaign is, and it cannot directly coordinate with the Murphy campaign. Leaders of the committee include Tampa Democratic operatives/activists Ana Cruz and Alan Clendenin, former Nelson aide Brian May of Miami, and Jennifer May of Washington.
Times Washington Bureau Chief Alex Leary contributed.