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Republican Party chairman Martinez resigns early

October 19, 2007 | 10:56 pm

As previewed here a couple of weeks ago, after only nine months in office, Florida's Sen. Mel Martinez resigned today as general chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Allthough he does not face reelection until 2010, the Cuban-born Martinez, the party's most prominent Latino, is said to be anxious to return to fulltime work as a Florida senator, instead of also being the public face of the national party. Party insiders have also complained of Martinez's disinterest in the job, which he originally rejected but took after a personal call from President Bush. He thanked Martinez today for his work and said he would not be replaced.

Instead, longtime party operative Mike Duncan of Kentucky will remain as chairman running the party's day-to-day operations. It is a stormy time for the organization, having lost control of both houses of Congress last fall and running behind the Democrats in fundraising and polling indicators for next year's presidential and congressional elections, where the GOP must defend 22 of the 34 Senate seats up.

A statement by the Democratic National Committee on the other side of Capitol Hill said the resignation, which came months earlier than expected, indicated the Republicans were in disarray. The national party operation basically turns itself over to its national candidate in presidential election years, so when that nominee becomes clear, he may well name a new chair.

The Times' Peter Wallsten has a story here.

--Andrew Malcolm

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