MIAMI- It is official: former U.S. Senator George LeMieux has announced that he has entered the GOP race to unseat incumbent Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat up for re-election in 2012.

" I am running for U.S. Senate because I believe the stakes have never been higher, " LeMieux said in a statement. " We cannot afford politicians who continue to spend this country into ruin. Bill Nelson, like most career politicians, is part of the problem. "

"Year in and year out, Bill Nelson has voted for bloated budgets, bigger bureaucracy, higher taxes, and has driven government into nearly every aspect of our lives," LeMieux charged.

LeMieux was appointed by former Florida Governor Charlie Crist to serve in the U.S. Senate for 16 months after Republican Mel Martinez decided to end his tenure early. At the time, it was an open secret that Crist was going to run for that same Senate seat, which was eventually won by Marco Rubio.

LeMieux was close to Crist. His former chief of staff who helped run his successful 2006 gubernatorial campaign, LeMieux even described himself as a " Charlie Crist Republican " during the announcement ceremony.  At the time, LeMieux's placement was seen by Tallahassee GOP circles as a place-holder for Crist , but according to some GOP officials in the Sunshine state, he defined himself capably during his year and a half in office.

"He was well-respected for the job he did at that time," One GOP Florida insider said to FOX.

Crist eventually left the Republican Party of Florida to run against Rubio as an independent, and LeMieux endorsed Rubio over Crist.

 " I am dissapointed in his decision, " LeMieux said at the time about Crist's indy move. " I am supporting Marco Rubio. I have been a Republican my whole life."

LeMieux joins Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos as the only announced GOP senatorial candidates so far in what is expected to be a growing field. Adam Hasner, the former state GOP House leader is exploring a probable run.