Patrick Murphy to run for Marco Rubio's Florida Senate seat

Patrick Murphy to run for Marco Rubio's Florida Senate seat
Patrick Murphy talks to supporters during a "thank you" tour of his district in 2012. (J Pat Carter / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Florida Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy announced on Monday his candidacy for Senate in what's expected to be an open seat in next year's general election. 

The Florida contest will be one of several key Senate races in 2016 as Democrats look to regain control of the upper chamber of Congress after losing it in last year's midterm elections.

For several weeks Murphy, who has served in the House since being elected in 2012, has hinted he might run in the race and has been a top recruit of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

His entrance comes as incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is expected to launch a presidential bid in the coming weeks. Rubio has said that if he runs for president he will not seek reelection to the Senate seat he's held since 2011. 

Last week, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and former Gov. Charlie Crist, who ran an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign last fall, both took their names off a possible candidates list.

Still, Rep. Alan Grayson, whose district spans the Orlando-area, is considering a bid and could present a formidable primary challenge to Murphy. 

Republicans have control of both chambers of the Florida Legislature and the governor's mansion, and the party has dominated statewide races in recent years. But Democrats in the state are optimistic as they hope to garner support from a growing Latino electorate that includes Cuban Americans.

In his campaign announcement, Murphy attacked Rubio, saying Florida's junior senator has "put his presidential ambitions before the needs of the people of this state."

"We need a leader in the Senate whose eyes are firmly fixed on the people of Florida by working together to get things done," Murphy said. "In the coming months, I look forward to meeting Floridians across the state to listen, earn their trust and ask for their support."

Republicans who might look to succeed Rubio should he run for president include the state's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.  

Florida, a swing state in presidential elections, is also home to former Gov. Jeb Bush, who is widely expected to run for president along with Rubio.

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