Florida Senate majority leader in for Radel's seat

Florida state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto (R) is running in the special election for former Rep. Trey Radel’s (R-Fla.) seat, she announced Monday.

Her decision to run expands the GOP primary field of candidates to seven, including former Purdue University basketball star Curt Clawson and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel.

But two of the highest-profile potential contenders in the race have opted out: former Rep. Connie Mack (R), who previously represented the district, and consultant Chauncey Goss, who came in second to Radel in the 2012 GOP primary.

Goss announced Monday he decided against a run.

“After careful thought and discussion with my family, I am announcing that I will not be a candidate in this upcoming special election,” he said in a statement. “As a husband and a father, my responsibility to my family must at this time take priority over the level of commitment required to properly serve as our Representative in Congress.”

In a letter announcing her decision to join the race, Benacquisto signaled she’ll focus on education reform, repealing ObamaCare and the national debt in her campaign.

She called for “return[ing] control of our education system to the local level,” as well as repealing “the disastrous experiment called ObamaCare.”

“Additionally, because of the threat it causes to our national security and America's future, we must stop piling debt upon our children and future generations by spending more than we have. The time for strong and principled action is now,” she added.

Benacquisto enters the race with a number of built-in advantages: She currently represents much more of Florida’s 19th District than Kreegel did when he was in office, has strong fundraising abilities and might be a more appealing candidate to national Republicans as they look to expand their diversity and add more women to their ranks.