TALLAHASSEE, Fla., May 15 (UPI) -- Florida Attorny General Charlie Crist has endorsed ex-U.S. Housing Secretary Mel Martinez's U.S. Senate bid and agreed to chair his statewide campaign.
The front-runner for Florida's 2004 GOP Senate nomination, Martinez faces stiff competition from former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum and Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd.
Crist, a little-known state legislator until he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 1998 against retiring Democrat Bob Graham, says he will will devote as much time as he can to helping Martinez win the Republican nomination.
A Martinez-Crist alliance could change the landscape in the Senate race and in the state's 2006 GOP gubernatorial contest.
A win by Martinez in November 2004 could put considerable weight behind Crist's gubernatorial aspirations for 2006 when incumbent Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican who could easily win renomination, must leave office under the state's term limit law.
Martinez declined to comment on whether he would support Crist for governor.
"I'm running for the Senate and I have my hands full with this," Martinez said during a news conference announcing the endorsement.