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One-time appointed senator seeks return to Washington

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla (Reuters) - Former appointed Senator George LeMieux announced on Tuesday that he will seek the Republican nomination for that office in 2012.

LeMieux served 16 months in the Senate, appointed by his former boss and then-Governor Charlie Crist to fill the vacancy created by Mel Martinez's early exit.

LeMieux, who previously served as Crist's chief of staff and deputy attorney general in Florida, returned to his south Florida home and law firm after his Senate term ended last year.

But he said on Tuesday that he cannot sit on the political sidelines because of all problems the country faces.

He wasted no time swiping Senator Bill Nelson, the two-term Democrat who holds the seat LeMieux seeks.

"Bill Nelson, like most career politicians, is part of the problem," LeMieux said in a statement on his new campaign Web site.

"Year in and year out, Bill Nelson has voted for bloated budgets, bigger bureaucracy, higher taxes and has driven government into nearly every aspect of our lives."

Mike Haridopolos, president of the Florida state Senate, also has announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate, and more Republicans are expected to join the field.

U.S. Representative Connie Mack will not be in that group, after his surprise decision last month to forgo challenging Nelson for the seat once held by Mack's father.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Greg McCune)

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