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Don Gaetz (net worth $25M) eyes wide-open U.S. Senate seat

Republican Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville said Tuesday he's considering entering Florida's wide-open 2016 U.S. Senate race as a self-funding candidate. He said his wife Victoria is totally on board with him leaping into the void created by CFO Jeff Atwater's unexpected decision to not seek the seat held by Sen. Marco Rubio.

"With Jeff Atwater out, that just shows how much the eggs have been scrambled in Florida, that I have people calling me and offering substantial commitments of support," Gaetz said.

Gaetz's interest was first reported by CQ Roll Call. The Panhandle lawmaker and former Senate president said he's "a long way" from making any decision and that he's under no illusions about the challenge he faces building statewide name recognition.

But Gaetz does have a reported net worth of $25 million (in 2012), and said he's willing to spend his own money -- a big advantage in a crowded race with no-big name candidates."I could do that if I got in the race," he said, "and my wife told me last night that she was all in, and she was a lot more in than I was."

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and at least four Republican members of Congress are also looking at the seat.   

Gaetz recalled Allan Bense, an effective House speaker who was recruited to run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2006 but declined entreaties from Karl Rove, among others. "He had statewide name recognition of about 3 percent," Gaetz said. "I don't flatter myself that anybody outside my district could probably pick me out of a lineup."

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