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Miller, Gaetz Mulling Run For U.S. Senate

photo via Flickr//Usually Melancholy

  Marco Rubio’s decision to vacate his U.S. Senate seat in favor of a run for president in 2016 is leading speculation about the slate of candidates wanting to succeed him. Two of the possibilities are in northwest Florida.

Cong. Jeff Miller had been listed as among those who may seek the Republican nomination. After a tour of the mold-infested federal courthouse in Pensacola last week, he came through with a “definite maybe.”

“It’s a discussion that [wife] Vicki and I have had for a little over a month, almost two months now,” Miller said. “It’s very rare that you have a seat open up where there is no clear frontrunner. This is the case, so we’re looking at it.”

There had been some speculation about Miller possibly seeking the other U.S. Senate seat, now held by Democrat Bill Nelson, when it comes up in 2018. Miller, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, confirmed that any senate run would be in 2016. 

“I term out as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. I also term out on the Intelligence Committee,” said Miller. “So from a political perspective, and a personal perspective, it makes more sense to look at it now in 2016. That decision has not been made, but I’m looking at it very strongly.”

Now in his seventh full term in Congress Miller, who’s also on the House Armed Services Committee, says a decision either way is likely to be made in “two or three weeks” after gaging the level of statewide support for a race that’s like to approach the $50 million level.

Susan McManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida, says one thing Miller brings to the table is his legislative experience at the federal level.

“Knowledge of the congressional lawmaking process and the budget process, and being able to talk about a lot of policy areas, because the senate race is likely to be very policy-focused,” said McManus.

What could be appealing to both Miller and state Sen. Don Gaetz is the growth of GOP strength in the Panhandle in recent years: much of it in the region’s western area. But McManus says there could still be a problem with name recognition.

Gaetz’ interest in Rubio’s seat appears to stem from state CFO Jeff Atwater's decision not to enter the race. The Niceville Republican, whose net worth is a reported $25 million, says he would be willing to self-fund his campaign.

Calls to state Sen. Don Gaetz seeking an interview were not returned. Besides him and Cong. Jeff Miller, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and at least four other Republican members of Congress are looking at the seat.