kendrick_meek.jpgMIAMI GARDENS – U.S. Rep. Kendrick B. Meek (D-Miami) announced Tuesday morning that he is running for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat in 2010.

If he were to win the Senate seat, Meek would become the first African-American U.S. senator from Florida.

Joined by his family outside his home in North Miami-Dade County, Meek laid out his vision for the future of Florida by emphasizing his commitment to alleviating current problems such as the increase of foreclosures throughout Florida, rising unemployment rates, the loss of senior citizens' retirement funds, ending the war in Iraq, and resolving healthcare inequalities.

"Public service and a commitment to make a better life for the people of Florida has been my mission,'' Meek said. "I've given Florida a strong voice on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and was appointed by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives to the House Leadership. But never in my lifetime, have the people of Florida been faced with so many big problems.  Our state needs bold leadership at every level, and that is why I've made the decision to run as a candidate for the United States Senate.''

He continued: "This race is not about me — it is about Floridians.  I am running for Florida, and I am asking Floridians to run with us in this race. Thanks to the leadership of President-elect (Barack) Obama, change has come to Washington. But it won't be easy. There will be opposition from many powerful forces who have stopped us before. We cannot let obstructionists stand in the way of helping the people of Florida."

Meek is the first Democrat to announce a run for the U.S. Senate seat that is being vacated by Republican Sen. Mel Martinez.

Meek is serving his fourth term in Congress, after winning the seat once held by his mother, former U.S. Rep. Carrie P. Meek, in 2002.

The 42-year-old former Florida Highway Patrolman is the only Florida Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, and also serves on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. He also chairs the House's 30 Something Working Group, an organization of young House members that also includes Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. His district includes Miami Gardens, Opa-locka, and parts of southern Broward County.

Speculation in Democratic Party circles has swirled around the possible entrance of Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink into the race. Sink, the only Democratic member of Gov. Charlie Crist's cabinet, is considered a formidable potential candidate. She is the only woman to hold a statewide office in Florida, and has statewide name recognition.

Other possible Democratic entrants include State. Sen. Dan Gelber (Bal Harbor/Sunny Isles Beach), and congressmen Ron Klein and Allan Boyd. On the Republican side, House Speaker Marco Rubio is expected to run, along with State Attorney General Bill McCollum. A source close to Dr. Marion Thorpe, an African-American physician who ran unsuccessfully against Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings in 2008, will also enter the race.

Meek's entrance into the Senate race will mean an open race for his District 17 seat, which could attract a number of African-American candidates.

Meek drew criticism from some in the African-American community for his support of Sen. Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential primary, but Meek worked actively on behalf of Obama during the general election. In 1998, the then-state senator staged a sit-in to protest Gov. Jeb Bush's One Florida plan abolishing affirmative action. He also championed the state's class-size amendment, and has been a staunch advocate for aid and relief to Haiti.