Bense Won't Be Facing Nelson

Florida Speaker of the House Rep. Allan Bense of Panama City says he’s decided he will not run for the U.S. Senate next year.

Gov. Jeb Bush, his brother President George W. Bush and other national Republican leaders had urged Bense to enter the race for the post now held by Democrat Bill Nelson.

That leaves Katherine Harris as the leading Republican to challenge Nelson.

Bense, who has one more year as Florida House Speaker, says a Senate campaign would reduce his effectiveness as House leader.

“At some point in time you have to get your priorities correct, and my number one priority is being a good Speaker of the House. We have had a good first year and I would have trouble balancing a U.S. Senate race and House Speaker. Doing both would mean I couldn’t do either well.”

Two Panama City Beach Republicans have filed the preliminary paperwork to run for Bense’ House District #6 seat when his term expires next year. Restaurateur Jimmy Patronis, Jr. and Iraq war veteran Cameron Skinner have prefiled for the office.

Skinner already has raised an $117,000 campaign war chest.