Florida Republican drops Senate bid, clearing way for McCollum
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- The race to succeed Florida's retiring GOP Sen. Connie Mack took a new turn Thursday as candidate Tom Gallagher was expected to end his campaign and run instead for state insurance commissioner, sources close to Gallagher said.
Gallagher's withdrawal clears the way for Rep. Bill McCollum to take the GOP nomination. McCollum -- one of the House impeachment managers who prosecuted the Senate trial of President Bill Clinton -- is giving up his central Florida congressional seat, which he has held for nearly 20 years, to run for Senate.
Gallagher, who served two terms as insurance commissioner beginning in 1988, is now the state's education commissioner. His announcement is expected to come Thursday afternoon at a Tallahassee news conference with Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.
Bush and the head of the Florida Republican Party, Al Cardenas, met with Gallagher earlier in the week to urge him to switch after the Republican candidate for insurance commissioner dropped out of the race.
Polls indicate the more moderate Gallagher would fare better in the general election against the likely Democratic nominee, Bill Nelson. Gallagher's departure leaves McCollum facing little competition for the Republican nomination, allowing McCollum to concentrate on a race with Nelson, a former congressman who is the current insurance commissioner.
Gallagher's Senate bid left state party leaders worried that a tough primary battle with McCollum would cost them both offices.