U.S. House of Representatives member Robert Wexler of Boca Raton, a self-described "fire-breathing liberal," defender of Israel and friend of both President Barack Obama and Gov. Charlie Crist, is quitting Congress to head a think tank seeking peace in the Middle East.
In a conference call Tuesday night with Democratic leaders, Wexler said he will become director of the Washington-based Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation. Wexler, 48, is expected to make a public statement about his plans at a 10 a.m. Wednesday press conference at his Boca Raton office.
The jockeying to represent his heavily Democratic congressional district began in earnest Tuesday as the news of his departure began to leak out.
"I'm still a little bit in shock over all this," said state Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Parkland, though he added he was "for sure" considering a run for the seat.
Other potential Democratic contenders in the district covering parts of North Broward and Palm Beach counties are state Sen. Ted Deutch of Delray Beach, West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter and former Broward County Commissioner Ben Graber.
Once Wexler's resignation becomes official, state law requires Crist to call a special election. That can leave candidates little time to raise funds and campaign, and sometimes makes for an unpredictable and chaotic race.
Wexler prided himself on representing the "greatest generation" -- the World War II veterans and Depression survivors from the Northeast who turned South Florida's retirement communities into Democratic strongholds. He was a high-profile spokesman for the Democratic party during the 2000 presidential recount in the state and fought for a paper trail for voters using electronic machines.
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