(WSVN) - Early voting is underway in South Florida, and the race for Florida’s senate seat has just as much drama as the race for president.
Marco Rubio spent most of the first half of 2016 running for president. But despite saying, “I’m going to finish out my term over the next ten months, and I’ll be a private citizen,” Rubio is running again to hold onto his seat.
“The ability to make a difference, I didn’t want us to lose a senate seat,” Rubio told 7News when asked why he changed his mind, “and I believe that, no matter who wins the presidency, you’re going to need a senator willing to act as a check and balance on the next President.”
But Rubio’s closest rival, the Democratic Congressman from Florida’s 18th district on the treasure coast, Patrick Murphy, isn’t buying it.
“He’s using the people of Florida as a platform to run for president again because his first time failed,” Murphy said.
Last year, Rubio acknowledged to the Washington Post that he was frustrated with the U.S. Senate.
“Well, again, I can’t guarantee that it will be different in terms of how the senate works, but I can tell you that if we don’t try, it won’t be any different,” Rubio said.
Rubio points to a bill he pushed to implement sanctions on international financial institutions that are believed to fund the terror group Hezbollah and his efforts to combat the trafficking of young girls.
But he also held one of the lowest attendance records in the Senate — just 41 percent.
“I wasn’t on a Caribbean cruise,” Rubio said. “I was running for President of the United States.”
“Call me crazy, but I enjoy this job,” Murphy said. “I enjoy fighting for the people of Florida.”
Both party frontrunners have challengers in the August primary. Rubio faces little-known candidates Ernie Rivera, Dwight Mark Anthony Young and businessman Carlos Beruff.
“I’ve actually done something in my life besides be a career politician,” Beruff said, “and that’s part and parcel with what’s wrong with Washington.”
In his primary, Murphy faces Rocky de la Fuente, Pam Keith, Reginald Luster, and Central Florida Congressman Alan Grayson.
“One of my proudest accomplishments, right now, is that I’ve gotten 117 cosponsors to expand medicare to cover eyes, ears and teeth,” Grayson said. “Seniors deserve a raise.”
But a new Quinnipiac University poll has Rubio and Murphy running virtually neck and neck, with the incumbent, Rubio, leading by only three points.
Rubio said his priorities are national security and immigration reform taken in steps, starting with stronger borders.
Murphy said climate change, marriage equality and expanding social security and medicare were his priorities.
“I would consider myself fiscally responsible, right,” Murphy said. “I’m a CPA, I’m a small business guy and socially progressive. I care about getting things done.”
The son of a mother with a drug problem, Murphy required tutoring as a child just to keep up.
“I would like to think that everybody in this country, you know, gets that second chance,” Murphy said.
As for Rubio, you may remember this dig at Donald Trump, as he neared the end of his Presidential bid.
“He doesn’t sweat because his pores are clogged from the spray tan that he uses.”
Rubio told 7News he was only responding on Trump’s level.
“Well, I’ve talked about that,” said Rubio. “Number one is, obviously, when I see somebody out there disrespecting people, there comes a point where you feel like they need a taste of their own medicine. That’s real life, real people go through things like this. You make mistakes, you learn from them.”
Many polls show Grayson running second to Murphy in the Democratic primary, and while polls show the general race between Murphy and Rubio is close, they also show Rubio would be ahead by about seven points in a match up against Grayson.
Wednesday night, 7News takes a look at another congressional clash. Former University of Miami And NFL star Randall Hill trying to unseat incumbent Frederica Wilson to represent District 24, which includes an area from Miami to Miramar.