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Robert Wexler, passionate Florida liberal, quits Congress

October 14, 2009 |  8:50 am

Florida Rep. Robert Wexler at Radio Free Euope

It's kind of a shocker for political groupies, news that a popular and not-in-any-way-endangered Democratic incumbent has decided to leave Congress.

Robert Wexler, a staunch liberal voice from Boca Raton, railed against Republicans who impeached President Clinton and fought for a paper-verification of all ballots after Florida's flawed (remember hanging chads?) election in 2000.

During last year's election, he was an early and avid supporter of Barack Obama despite strong support for Hillary Clinton in his district. Trying to deflect talk in January that he might be rewarded with an appointment in the new administration, Wexler said, "I have a dream job, a job I love."

Today he announced that he's resigning after 19 years in Congress to head a Washington think tank called the Center for Middle East Peace & Economic Cooperation, founded by Slim-Fast founder S. Daniel Abraham.

The decision has left some analysts scratching their heads. "What Is Wexler Thinking?" asked the Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman, speculating that perhaps the move is part of some "inside-outside game" by the administration in which the think tank would push Israel toward the negotiating table from the outside while the White House pushed from the inside.

If so, Wexler gave no clue today in a presser, saying only, "We are at a unique and critically tense moment in the history of the Middle East," he said, "with both significant opportunities to succeed in the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as major challenges involving Iran, Hamas, and Al Qaeda." 

The district is a Democratic stronghold, and the Miami Herald is reporting that special election candidates could include Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Ring, who said he was "still in a little bit of shock over all of this," as well as state Sen. Ted Deutch, West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, Broward County Mayor Stacy Ritter and former Broward County Commissioner Ben Graber.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo credit: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
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