Bense won't run for Senate
Florida's House Speaker says he believed he would have won, but it was not worth the sacrifices away from his family.
By STEVE BOUSQUET
Published May 10, 2006
TALLAHASSEE -- Citing both family and business considerations, House Speaker Allan Bense announced Wednesday that he will not challenge U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
Bense's decision leaves the Republican Party with no alternative to Harris, who trails far behind Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in polls. The deadline for candidates to qualify for the Senate seat is noon Friday.
The Panama City Republican broke the news of his decision in an e-mail Wednesday morning to House members, in advance of an official announcement.
"I have been humbled by the strong support and encouragement I have received from my family, my friends and from each of you," Bense wrote in the e-mail. "I hope I will be remembered as a speaker who set aside any partisan or personal agenda and worked hard to make decisions based upon what was in the best interest of the Florida House and of the people of Florida."
"Now, I look forward to spending time with my wife, Tonie, seeing our daughter, Courtney, get married this summer, helping our son, Jason, begin his career and sending our youngest son, Taylor, off to college," Bense wrote. "I am also eager to get back to the business interests I have neglected while serving the public and to pursuing whatever new opportunities may arise."
Bense's announcement is sure to be a major letdown to Gov. Jeb Bush and other leading Republicans, who have aggressively been searching for an alternative to Harris.
The Sarasota Congresswoman's Senate candidacy has been hobbled by a series of missteps and staff turnover, and she is far behind Nelson in fund-raising even after putting $3-million of her own money into her campaign.
In his most pessimistic assessment of Harris' chances, Bush told reporters on Monday: "I just don't believe she can win. Most of the polls I see show her down 30. She's not had any, gained any traction."
A growing number of Republicans are increasingly concerned that Harris' presence at the top of the ticket could depress voter turnout and make things tougher for other GOP candidates on the ticket.
"If she's the Republican candidate, the best we can hope for is that she doesn't bring down the rest of the ticket," said Brian Ballard, a lobbyist and fund-raiser for Attorney General Charlie Crist, a candidate for governor.
In a statement released to the media, Bense said he felt he would have won, but that in the final analysis it was not worth the sacrifices away from his family.
"While the challenge of running a successful campaign over the next several months was exciting, and while I am confident we would have been successful, ultimately my decision came down to the fundamental question of whether I was willing to spend the next six, 12 or possibly 18 years of my life away from my family and my home serving Florida in the U.S. Senate," Bense said in the second statement. "After much thought and prayer, I realized the answer to that question is no."
[Last modified May 10, 2006, 11:45:55]
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