ORLANDO, Fla. – Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida said Friday he will step down from the Senate as soon as possible — more than a year before his term ends — adding fresh intrigue over who will fill the seat.
Martinez, the only Hispanic Republican in the Senate, revealed his plans in a statement to supporters and was expected to publicly announce the decision Friday afternoon in Florida.
The first-term senator already had announced in December that he would not seek re-election in 2010, but had fended off rumors that he would give up the seat early.
His decision puts Republican Gov. Charlie Crist — who is running to replace him — in charge of filling the job in the interim. Crist said Friday as he boarded a plane to Tampa that he would not appoint himself, but wouldn't discuss the issue further.
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