Rumors of Sen. Bill Nelson running for governor are resurfacing. (Photo via NASA)

Rumors of Sen. Bill Nelson running for governor are resurfacing. (Photo via NASA)

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

It hasn’t even been a month since former Republican Florida governor Charlie Crist announced his bid to return to his old office, this time as a Democrat. However, there is renewed chatter that there might be another Democrat waiting in the wings to run.

Several months ago there was speculation that Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., would run against Gov. Rick Scott in 2014. Nelson is one of the more popular Democratic politicians in the state and has been openly frustrated with the legislative grid-lock in Congress for the past few years.

However, people close to Nelson have denied – and continue to deny—that he has any plans to run. Despite that, state and national news outlets are keeping the possibility alive. MSNBC reported this week:

“I firmly believe he is considering the race,” said former Florida Congressman Jim Davis.

Bob Graham, Florida’s popular former governor and U.S. senator, agreed,  adding he still has time to make a decision.

“Sen. Nelson is capable of deferring his decision without a delay adversely affecting his chances to win a primary,” said Florida’s popular former governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham.  “He just came off a statewide run and has plenty of name recognition and built in advantages.”

Nelson has been flirting with jumping in for months and has been delivering fiery speeches across the Sunshine State in opposition to Scott’s agenda. He and his advisers have refused to rule out a run and are likely to wait and see how much support coalesces around Crist before making a decision.

Nelson’s staff and political advisers declined to comment. But several national level Democrats, with close ties to Florida, also said that the 70-year-old, three-term senator is seriously mulling a campaign for governor and would ultimately decide by the first of the new year.

“If Senator Nelson were to get into the race, his popularity and name recognition and the fact that he has consistently been a Democrat would prove formidable,” said one senior Democratic official.

The News Service of Florida reported:

Fanning the flames of uncertainty about former Gov. Charlie Crist’s viability as a gubernatorial candidate, Democrats close to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson are letting potential supporters know the three-term senator is waiting in the wings if Crist’s campaign stumbles.

Nelson’s chief of staff, Pete Mitchell, called some prominent Democrats recently and told them the 71-year-old Nelson, who has been coy about his interest in the governor’s race, is considering a bid, according to sources who spoke on background.

However, people close to Nelson say he has been pretty set on keeping his seat in the U.S. Senate. According to The Florida-Times Union, “Steve Schale, a top consultant for Charlie Crist, says that Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson personally told him he would not run for governor.”

“I take Bill Nelson at his word,” Schale told the Times-Union. “He has said publicly and told me privately that he would not run.”

In the meantime, the Scott v. Crist race is bound to be one of the most contentious races next year. Scott, an unpopular conservative governor, has an immense fundraising power. Crist, who has garnered enemies in both parties, actually has a good shot at ousting Scott from his position.

And there has already been some fairly big news for this race. This week, former governor Jeb Bush announced he was endorsing Scott during his reelection in 2014.