Crist's Senate List Jam

Senate seat field narrows, may still expand

And then there were two. But there may be more.

The field of potential candidates to fill the soon-to-be empty U.S. Senate seat of Mel Martinez has apparently narrowed after Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart said thanks but no thanks to Governor Charlie Crist late last night.

"After giving the Governor’s request serious consideration and deliberation, I have decided to remain in the U.S. House of Representatives fighting for the causes which I deeply believe in,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement, obtained by the Palm Beach Post.

That leaves former Florida Governor Bob Martinez and former attorney general and secretary of state Jim Smith on Crist's short list of candidates who he hopes won't get in his way when he runs for the Senate in about 15 months. 

Diaz-Balart seemed to have flipped on his decision in a matter of hours yesterday, after his spokesman had said he was "seriously considering it" earlier in the day.

Crist will meet with Bob Martinez this morning at MIA to see what his interest is in filling the seat.

Crist had asked the three to send formal applications for the position. But more could be added as Crist is apparently considering widening his list to include Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, former Sen. Connie Mack, ex-Rep. Clay Shaw and state Sen. Daniel Webster, according to

It leaves an interesting decision for Crist, who must appear competent to appoint someone who can ably fill the seat, while at the same time not hurting his own chances at taking the seat in 2010 by appointing someone who could steal his thunder in the Republican primary.

Both Martinez and Smith are clearly capable, and choosing the Cuban-born Martinez would go over well in South Florida, but Crist is under a little pressure to give the seat to a woman to expand his party's base.

It's a tough decision which could affect Florida greatly, but at least we know Crist likely won't go this route.

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