updated 12/18/2003 11:31:39 AM ET 2003-12-18T16:31:39

Former New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith, hoping to represent his newly adopted home state, said Wednesday he plans to seek the seat of retiring Sen. Bob Graham.

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Smith, a Republican who moved to Sarasota in May, told The Associated Press he will formally announce his candidacy next month. If elected, he would become the first U.S. senator in more than 120 years to have represented more than one state.

“I’m going to run a campaign which I basically offer my credentials to the people of Florida, my seniority, my experience in the Senate,” Smith said. “I want to help President Bush. This is a critical state for the president.”

Smith, 62, is a social conservative who frequently has been at odds with the GOP establishment. He quit the party and ran for president in 1999, but rejoined the party a few months later, saying he’d made a mistake.

The two-term senator was defeated in last year’s Republican primary by John Sununu. In June he took a job selling high-end, waterfront real estate in Longboat Key.

Smith said his campaign will focus on military and veterans affairs, the space industry and protecting areas such as the Florida Everglades.

“I will not be critical of any other person in the race. My view is that I have these credentials that I’d like to offer to the people of Florida and I intend to go all over the state of Florida,” Smith said.

Smith is entering a crowded field to replace Graham, a Democrat.

Republicans running or considering a run include former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, Rep. Katherine Harris, state House Speaker Johnnie Byrd and legal activist Larry Klayman.

Democratic hopefuls
Democratic hopefuls include U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch, Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas and former education commissioner Betty Castor.

Only two senators have served more than one state. Sen. James Shields represented Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri between 1849 and 1879, and Sen. Waitman Thomas Willey served Virginia and West Virginia between 1861 and 1871.

Analysts, however, said it will be tough for Smith to win because he is a relatively unknown newcomer in a large state.

“I think he’s a long shot, but in a crowded field ... stranger things have happened,” said Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida.

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