Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd (search) launched his bid Monday for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Bob Graham (search).

Byrd, seeking the Republican nomination, said he believes his support is grounded in conservatives who back President Bush's agenda on issues including tax cuts, tort reform and strengthening homeland security.

Byrd said the terrorist attacks on the United States and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make the Middle East the most pressing issue on the national agenda. He called for an end to plans to create a Palestinian state by the end of the year and said the U.S. should cut off aid to Egypt because that country has not done enough to bring peace to the region.

Also running in the August GOP primary are former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez (search), Miami attorney Larry Klayman, Miami businessman Doug Gallagher and former congressman Bill McCollum, the party's 2000 nominee.

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