Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., opted against a bid for the Senate in the Sunshine State on Thursday, winnowing an already crowded GOP field in the highly competitive contest.
Miller opting out of the race is a surprise to Florida Republicans. Before the July 4 recess, Miller had called a handful of Republicans who were eyeing his Panhandle-based House seat to alert them of his Senate plans, and hired the top Republican consulting firm OnMessage to help prepare his bid.
"Their entire staff up until today was under the impression he was running for Senate," said a source with knowledge of Miller's plans.
But in a statement on Thursday, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee said he is choosing to stay in the House to focus on veterans' issues.
"It became clear to me that this Administration is not committed to reforming the VA," Miller said in the statement to the Tampa Bay Times . "My personal commitment to the veterans of this country is greater than my desire to seek higher office."
Miller's decision leaves the Republican Senate primary field at four . Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera, Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly, and veteran Todd Wilcox are all running for the GOP nod.
On the Democratic side, Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson are running for their party's nomination.
The seat is open in 2016 because of GOP Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential bid.
President Barack Obama carried Florida twice, making the Senate seat a top target for Democrats who are seeking to net the five seats necessary to take the majority in the Senate.
Florida's Senate race is rated a Tossup contest by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.
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