Miami's Rep. Meek becomes first to announce for Senate seat

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami is planning to declare his bid for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, becoming the first candidate to enter the race triggered by Republican Mel Martinez's retirement in 2010.

Meek, 42, who succeeded his mother in Congress in 2002, would be Florida's first black senator if he wins. If he loses, he will have given up a politically secure seat in Congress while his party is in control. Meek is also a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the only Florida Democrat on the influential Ways and Means Committee.

Some state voters may recognize Meek because of the legacy of his mother, Carrie Meek, and his leadership in 2002 on Florida's constitutional amendment to limit class sizes. But he has never run statewide or faced a competitive race for Congress.

Democrats considering a Senate bid include state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, state Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach and U.S. reps. Ron Klein of Boca Raton and Allen Boyd, whose district includes Panama City and Tallahassee. An arm of the Democratic Party and a fundraising group for female candidates, Emily's List, are courting Sink.

''I advise them to avoid a divisive primary because the ability to do that will be a major plus in the general election,'' said former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who has counseled Sink, Gelber and Meek.

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