TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Former Gov. Jeb Bush announced Tuesday that he won't run for the U.S. Senate in 2010 to replace the retiring Mel Martinez, saying that it was not the right time to return to elected office.
"I can play a role in helping to reshape the Republican Party's message and focus on 21st century solutions to 21st century problems," Bush told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "Not running does not preclude me from being involved in these things and I will be."
Bush gave a run serious consideration after Martinez said last month he wouldn't seek a second term. Bush spoke with senators, supporters and family, including his brother, President George W. Bush, and his father, former President George Bush.
He said his decision wasn't based on politics, but on his "personal journey." He said his brother's low approval rating didn't factor into his decision, and that Floridians are familiar with his record as governor.
"One of the benefits of being governor is people get to know you and I think people know I love this state," Bush said. "While I'm proud of my brother and I love my brother ... people know that I'm Jeb Bush and I don't think that would have been a problem."
Bush served as governor of Florida from 1999-2007 and remains a popular figure in the state. His announcement clears the field for several other potential Republican candidates who had said they wouldn't challenge him.
Bush won bipartisan praise for leading the state through eight hurricanes over a two-year period. He used standardized testing to overhaul the education system, was credited with making government more efficient and lowered taxes.
Martinez announced last month that he wouldn't seek a second six-year term.
"I understand his decision. Jeb would have been a great candidate and senator. The good news is that Republicans still hold the advantage with a deep field of potential candidates," Martinez said.
© 2009 The Associated Press.