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Bill Nelson has 'no intention' of running for gov, stays mum on Crist

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he is not planning to run against Gov. Rick Scott in the 2014 governor's race but stopped short of completely ruling it out.

"I'm not planning to run for governor," he said Wednesday in Tallahassee. "I have no intention of running for governor. I've got plenty to do as serving as the senator of this state, and that's why I'm here today, in my role as senator."

Will you say that you won't run for governor? a reporter asked. "I said what I said," Nelson replied

Nelson is also not interested in "blessing" other Democratic candidates. Asked to name the pros and cons of another possible Democratic candidate, former Gov. Charlie Crist, Nelson said, "I'm not getting into that."

Nelson, who just won reelection last year over Republican challenger Connie Mack, said he does not know why his name is being tossed around as the Democratic gubernatorial candidate (though former CFO Alex Sink told Times columnist Sue Carlton that Nelson should seriously consider it).

But people kept asking him about it at dinner last night with his chief of staff, Pete Mitchell, at The Front Porch in Tallahassee.

"Everybody in the restaurant's coming up saying this," Nelson said, "and so I told them same thing I told y'all."

He suggested his command of prominent committees as a good reason to stay in the Senate.

"I'm chairman of the Aging Committee now. In two years if we still have the majority, I'll be chairman of Commerce," he said. "You look at the jurisdiction that they have, so I will be grateful for that."

"And now I'm No. 2 in Armed Services. If I can just get Jack Reed of Rhode Island appointed secretary of Defense, then I'll be chairman," he joked.

Nelson came to Tallahassee to reiterate his call for a federal investigation of the state's handling of the Florida's Hardest Hit Fund, a $1 billion mortgage assistance program that has denied aid to thousands of homeowners, following a Tampa Bay Times investigation. (More on that here). Without calling out Scott by name, he criticized the administration's handling of the program and past of rejecting federal stimulus money for various programs.

"It's no secret that the administration of the state of Florida decided that they didn't want a lot of federal help," he said. "You remember the $2.5 billion that they ... would not take for setting up high speed rail?"

Nelson was heading west on I-10 to Marianna after the news conference to highlight another issue: investigating deaths at the Dozier School for Boys, which he recalled passing as a child. Read the Times' 2009 special report on Dozier, For Their Own Good.

As the Supreme Court takes up same-sex marriage cases this week, reporters asked Nelson about his opposition to a federal same-sex marriage law. Nelson said he has always stood up for civil unions, but "my personal preference is that marriage is between a man and a woman."