Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez said today that he’s not planning to seek reelection in 2010.

Martinez, who is still in his first term in the Senate, has been one of the few Republicans who has generally opposed offshore drilling (which isn’t totally surprising, given his state’s geography). Even in the rush to open up the outer continental shelf this summer, he fought to keep rigs at least 125 miles away from the state’s touristy Gulf Coast. He also played a key role in brokering a deal that allowed some drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in 2006 while keeping it at least a little farther off the coast than the pro-drilling crowd wanted.

It’s an issue he clearly struggled with, trying to walk the line between home-state interests and the leanings of the national party. “I’m trying to clarify my position,” he told Politico this summer, shortly after presidential candidate John McCain reversed his position on offshore drilling. “In Florida today most voters probably want more drilling … [M]y hope is [McCain] will understand the need to maintain the law as we passed it in 2006, which gives Florida a 125-mile buffer. The rest of it I can probably live with. It’s about providing enough resources where the states want to do it and permit it.”

But Martinez’s cautionary voice on drilling doesn’t mean he’s had a great environmental record overall. He’s largely opposed action on climate change. He got just a 15 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters, and a 23 percent for the 110th Congress.

His retirement means we can expect a fierce fight to fill that slot in the 2010 midterms.