The speculation was at least fun while it lasted. On Thursday, Roll Call reported that Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), one of the few senators who shows a strong interest in space, was mulling a run for governor of Florida in 2014. Nelson was reelected to the Senate in 2012 and thus would not have to give up his seat to run for governor, unless he decided to resign to focus full-time on a gubernatorial run. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who worked closely with Nelson on space policy, opted not to resign when she ran for governor of Texas in 2010; she lost the Republican primary to incumbent Rick Perry, and decided to retire instead of run again for the Senate in 2012.
That speculation, though, didn’t last long. On Friday, Nelson told MSNBC that he had “no intention of running for governor” in 2014. “I love this job as senator, except that I am very, very frustrated” by the difficulty in building consensus on issues, he said.
Nelson’s departure from the Senate, either to campaign for office or if he was elected governor, would have created something of a policy vacuum in the Senate on space issues. Nelson serves as the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s space subcommittee, and is usually joined in hearings there by only the committee’s new ranking member, freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who won the seat vacated by the retiring Hutchison.
Nelson also mentioned space in his latest newsletter last week, citing the new asteroid initiative in the administration’s 2014 budget request for NASA. “I announced that NASA is planning to catch an asteroid and place it in orbit around the moon,” he wrote, a reference to his statement about the initiative that came out several days before the official budget rollout. “And the program will mean jobs for Florida, and a reinvigorated space agency,” he added, without elaborating on exactly how many jobs, and where, would be enabled by this plan.