CLEARWATER (FOX 13) - U.S. Rep. David Jolly announced this afternoon that he would not be running for the U.S. Senate, presumably clearing the way for former presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio to run for re-election. Jolly instead will seek re-election to his own House seat.
Rubio had previously said he would not be running for re-election to the Senate, something he continued to echo even after his failed presidential bid. But in recent weeks, the senator appears to have changed his mind.
On Friday Jolly pledged support for Rubio, saying he believes his fellow Republican will indeed enter the race.
"I've believed for weeks that Senator Rubio will get in," said Jolly. "It is not based on actual information, it is simply based on where I believe his heart's leading him, where his decision's leading him. I would anticipate he may get in as early as Monday."
The deadline for Rubio, or any other potential candidate to file to run for political office in Florida is Friday, June 24.
In the meantime, Jolly said he has "unfinished business" in the House, pledging to change the tone of politics.
"I'm not running against anybody in this race. I'm running on my record. I'm asking you allow me to continue to serve," he told supporters.
Jolly's decision to run for re-election now pits him against a familiar foe.
"I believe I'm more qualified to represent the people of Pinellas County than Charlie Crist," said Jolly, who left little doubt about his feelings over his republican-turned-independent-turned-democrat rival. "I actually contributed to Charlie one time and then wrote a letter asking for my money back and didn't receive it. It was only in response to a promise he made that once he changed parties he'd give his contributions back."
Crist didn't take long to fire back on Friday, inciting the name of the presumptive republican presidential nominee in a statement.
"Unlike what my new opponent did when I announced, I'm not going to start name calling like Donald Trump - everyone should do what's in their heart. Pinellas needs less Donald Trump and more civility to tackle issues like the rising cost of health care, gun violence, failing schools, and protecting our environment - that's why I'm running, for the people."
Poised for a heated showdown, both candidates seem to agree on one thing: the necessity to distance themselves from Donald Trump.
"I have not endorsed Donald Trump, so don't expect me to defend his statements," said Jolly, who says he will not appear with Trump at any of his campaign events.
Jolly was elected to Rep. Bill Young's seat after Young passed away, then was reelected to his first full term in a contentious 2014 election.