TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — Republican Congressman Connie Mack IV has changed his mind and will jump into the U.S. Senate race seeking to challenge Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, according to Washington-based reports.

Mack, a Republican from southwest Florida and the son of former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack of Florida, had initially declined to run. However, Politico and the St. Petersburg Times both reported early Thursday that Mack plans to get in the race. An advisor to Mack, David James, told Politico that the congressman is definitely entering the race. Mack initially was a supporter of Senate President Mike Haridopolos, but Haridopolos dropped out of the Republican primary earlier this year. The remaining Republicans in the race are former Sen. George LeMieux, former state Rep. Adam Hasner, former steakhouse chain CEO Craig Miller and retired Army Col. Mike McCalister.

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who is seeking his third term.

James said Mack will officially enter the race in the coming weeks. Mack has nearly $350,000 in his re-election account that he can use for a Senate race.

Mack served in the Florida House from 2000 to 2003, representing the Fort Lauderdale area. He moved back to Fort Myers to run for Congress, winning his seat in 2004. He also considered running for Senate during the 2010 election cycle, but instead said he would back then Gov. Charlie Crist in the race. Like most Republicans, he took back his support and endorsed Marco Rubio when Crist decided to leave the Republican Party and run as an independent. Rubio won the election.

Mack is married to California Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack. He has two children and two stepchildren.

“Sometimes you have to put your family and friends above political ambition, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to shy away from the political fight in `012. I will continue to be a voice, I will continue to hold Sen. Nelson’s feet to the fire,” Mack said in February. “You can’t go to Washington and be one of the most liberal senators in Washington and then come back to Florida and claim that he is a moderate.”

Nelson won his seat in 2000 when Mack’s father, Connie Mack III, retired.

Before his February announcement, Mack showed signs he might entering the race. He attacked Nelson frequently in political emails, and his campaign website prominently featured a video of Nelson with President Barack Obama. The video criticized Nelson for being too liberal.

A Quinnipiac University poll last month showed that 58 percent of Republicans were undecided and LeMieux leading the field with only 17 percent support, followed by McCalister with 11 percent and Hasner and Miller with 5 percent each.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press and The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)


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