Sen. George LeMieux (R) tried to distance himself from Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday morning, one day after Crist who appointed him to his seat announced his intention to run for the Senate as an Independent.
LeMieux, who ran Crists 2006 gubernatorial campaign and later served as his chief of staff, said he was saddened his former boss decided to drop out of the Republican primary.
Our friendship runs deep, but my commitment to the principles of the Republican Party runs deeper. I cannot walk down the path he has chosen, LeMieux said. Now more than ever, our nations future depends on our ability to uphold the core Republican ideals of fiscal restraint, peace through strength, individual liberty, personal responsibility and smaller government.
When Crist chose LeMieux to fill the Senate vacancy last August, LeMieux was viewed as a seat-warmer for the governor, who was widely expected to win the primary and general election. But that was before Crists campaign took a nose dive late last year and former state Speaker Marco Rubio (R) surged ahead, rallying the GOP base and the party establishment by running to the right.
LeMieuxs decision to align with Republicans after Crists announcement is also likely a sign that he has future ambitions for elected office.
I will support our Republican nominee and will continue to do everything I can both in Florida and across the country to increase the number of Republicans in the United States Senate, LeMieux said.
Meanwhile the Sunshine States Senate race was thrown into further upheaval Friday when billionaire real estate developer Jeff Greene announced his plan to run as a Democrat. Greenes vast personal fortune and large personality will complicate the primary picture for Rep. Kendrick Meek (D), who until now was expected to cruise to the nomination.