A candidate with a well-known name is leading the GOP primary race for one of Florida's U.S. Senate seats.

But U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV is drawing some heat from fellow Republicans, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Mack is well ahead in the polls. He has the support of likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

And because he has little to gain, Mack won't participate three scheduled debates with his opponents, including a July 26 forum that will be co-hosted by the Bay News 9, the Times and Florida PBS.

Mack's primary opponents include former Sen. George LeMieux, former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, retired Army Col. Mike McCalister, and Marielena Stuart who surprisingly won the Pinellas Republicans straw poll this month.

According to the Times, some people in the GOP say Mack is sending the wrong message by acting as if the race is over and opting out of the debates and straw polls.

"It's an incredibly bad message to send to the voters in a primary," Nancy McGowan, president of the Conservative Republican Forum of Jacksonville, told the Times. "It just says, 'What you think doesn't matter.' "

Other GOP loyalists interviewed by the Times, including Pinellas County Republican chairman Jay Beyrouti, said Mack needs to reach out to Republicans.

And Mack's opponents have criticized him for opting out of the debates.

LeMieux said in a statement Mack "wants nothing more than to hide behind his father's name and allow Republicans to enter the polling booth uninformed."

Mack leads all of his opponents by at least 32 points, according to a recent poll. He said participating in the debates would only help Sen. Bill Nelson, whom he would oppose in the general election in November if he receives the nomination.