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Posted December 09, 2003 by publisher in US Embargo

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Knight Ridder News Service

ORLANDO, Fla.—U.S. Housing Secretary Mel Martinez, a Cuban-born Republican and the only Hispanic member of President Bush’s cabinet, will resign this week to return to his home state and seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Bob Graham.

Martinez had ruled out a Senate bid during the summer, but White House strategists urged him to join the race after concluding that the already crowded field lacked a heavyweight contender to take the seat from Democratic hands and replace Graham.

“He’s got a great, great story that will resonate,” said former Florida House Speaker John Thrasher, a Martinez confidant who chatted with the president Thursday night at a White House reception.

GOP strategists in Washington said Friday that Martinez would submit a letter of resignation as early as Monday, be “strongly embraced” by the president at a cabinet meeting Thursday and leave his post at the Department of Housing and Urban Development by Friday.

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