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June 22, 2016

Beruff hits Rubio in north Florida county where Rubio struggled in presidential primary



Carlos Beruff may have picked the perfect location on Wednesday to essentially re-launch his campaign for the U.S. Senate, which suddenly requires him to beat an incumbent who just 3 months ago was a top-tier presidential contender.

"This is like a whole new campaign," Beruff told about 30 people at a law office in Panama City on Wednesday just hours after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced he had changed his mind and now wants to seek re-election to the U.S. Senate.

For the last four months, the millionaire land developer from Manatee County was battling four other lesser known Republicans for the GOP nomination to replace Rubio. Already three of those four other opponents have stepped aside for Rubio. 

But Beruff told the Republican audience in Bay County Wednesday that he is not budging and will remind voters of how much Rubio has skipped out on doing his job in Congress and how little real world business experience Rubio has.

"When 2.6 million people hire you to do a job, you really should go and do that job; and not go looking for another job," Beruff said of Rubio who missed 73 of 105 votes in the Senate during the six months before dropping out of the presidential race in March.

Beruff had a receptive audience in Bay County, where he's made four stops since March and has just ramped up his television advertising in the area. It's also a county where Rubio won less than 20 percent of the GOP presidential primary vote against Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in March.

Larry Britt, a retired salesman who was among the group to see Beruff, said even with Rubio in the race he still likes Beruff's chances.

"This is the year of the outsider," Britt said.

While Rubio was once the outsider choice, Britt said he thinks Washington has changed him like some of the other Republicans elected over the years who vowed to change D.C. He said those who try to make politics a career end up changing to fit in on Capitol Hill. But since Beruff already has another career, it makes him different and less susceptible to falling in line in D.C.

Beruff drove home a similar theme during a 15 minute speech to the group.

"Mr. Rubio has become part of the establishment," sad Beruff, who has said he's ready to spend up to $20 million of his own money to win the Senate seat.

Attorney William G. Harrison, Jr., said he supported Rubio in 2010, but said his entering the race so late is a problem for him. He said once Rubio made clear he would not seek re-election, he and others took him at his word and started committing to other campaigns. He's told people in his office and over dinners that he's backing Beruff and questions how he can go back on his word, just because Rubio changed his mind.

"It's different for people up here in North Florida where it really matters if you keep your word," Harrison said.

He said Rubio is also going to have to overcome not spending much time in the Florida Panhandle since he was elected in 2010. He said Rubio has barely been west of Tallahassee and hasn't built ties with people.

"Nobody knows who Rubio is here," Harrison said. "Sure we've seen him on tv during the presidential campaign. But around here people know if you have a problem you call Bill Nelson's office and they will take care of it. He's a good guy, but you just don't know who he is. We don't have a connection with him."

During his speech, Beruff seized on that sentiment noting he's already visited all 67 Florida counties and has pledged visit them all again every year if he is elected.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Carlos Curbelo back Marco Rubio


Marco Rubio picks up the backing of two fellow Miami Republicans who areprobably relieved at the prospect of having Rubio on the November ballot:

U.S. Senate poll: Rubio clear favorite in primary, Democrats largely undecided


New internal poll results released this afternoon by a Republican super PAC show that almost two-thirds of Democrats remain undecided in that party's primary for Florida's U.S. Senate race, but incumbent Marco Rubio is -- unexpectedly -- an instant front-runner in the dwindling GOP field.

The Senate Leadership Fund, which is affiliated with Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC, commissioned polls in both primaries earlier this week -- before Rubio made his announcement Wednesday morning that he'd seek re-election.

The automated telephone surveys were conducted June 19-20 by Pop Polling.

Out of 530 registered Democrats surveyed, 62 percent said they were still undecided in the August primary contest, according to the polling memo. Among those who weren't, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, led U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando, 19 percent to 15 percent. Miami labor attorney and former naval officer Pam Keith had 5 percent support.

The poll of the Democratic field had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

On the Republican side, only three candidates' names were included in the survey: Rubio, Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox. (Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, of Ponte Vedra Beach, were not included in the poll; although, they didn't drop out of the race until earlier today after Rubio announced his decision.)

Rubio earned 57 percent support among the 487 registered Republicans surveyed, according to the polling memo. Beruff got 5 percent support and Wilcox got 4 percent support, while 34 percent of respondents said they were undecided.

The Republican survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Although the polls were from a partisan source, the strength of Rubio's candidacy reflected in the Senate Leadership Fund's results somewhat echo what the latest Quinnipiac University poll of the race showed when it was released early this morning.

Rubio fared well in both -- but the two polls can't be compared because the Q poll didn't survey each party primary. Rather, it looked at potential head-to-head general election match-ups in November. It signaled that Republicans' best shot to win the election would be with Rubio.

The Senate Leadership Fund's poll did not survey head-to-head general election possibilities, but the leader of the super PAC expressed confidence based on both the Q poll and its own internal polling.

"These numbers confirm that Marco Rubio is the Democrats’ worst nightmare in their dream of putting this Florida Senate seat in Hillary Clinton’s pocket," said Steven Law, former chief of staff to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and president of Senate Leadership Fund. "Not only is Rubio a clear favorite in the Republican primary, but the Democrats' primary is a dogfight between two scandal-tainted politicians, the resume-puffing Patrick Murphy and the unethical hedge fund manager Alan Grayson."

Both Grayson and Murphy have said they welcome Rubio's entry into the race; they're eager to take him on and confident in their prospects.

Florida's U.S. Senate race will be a grueling fight in the months ahead, because the seat could decide which party controls the Senate in 2017. The party primaries are Aug. 30.

Mario Diaz-Balart endorses Marco Rubio


Expect Marco Rubio to see the endorsements pour in from Florida Republicans who had backed Rubio's friend, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, for U.S. Senate before Rubio chose to seek re-election.

Here's one, from U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami:

I commend Senator Rubio on his decision to run for re-election. In these challenging times, Senator Rubio’s experience and deep knowledge on issues of foreign policy and national security are desperately needed. Carlos Lopez-Cantera would have made a great member of the U.S. Senate. His decision to step aside and recognize our state and country needed Senator Rubio’s expertise once again demonstrates that Carlos always puts his country first. I am confident he will continue serving our state with honor and integrity. I look forward to supporting Senator Rubio’s re-election bid this fall.

Grayson, Murphy join fellow House members in sit-in over gun bills


Several Florida Democrats -- including U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy, the two main contenders in the Democratic primary for Florida's U.S. Senate race -- are among the dozens of members of Congress participating in a sit-in protest this afternoon on the U.S. House floor to persuade Republican leaders to take up "no fly, no buy" legislation.

The protest began before noon, led by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.

Both Grayson and Murphy support the "no fly, no buy" bill, which would prevent people on the FBI's terrorist watchlist from buying guns. A Senate vote on the issue failed earlier this week.

Just after 2 p.m., Murphy stepped away from the sit-in for about 15 minutes to speak with state and national reporters on a conference call arranged by his U.S. Senate campaign for Murphy to comment on Republican Marco Rubio's decision today to seek re-election. Murphy said gun control reform "is going to be one of the defining issues of this Senate race," and he blasted Rubio for voting against reform proposals.

Many members of Congress, including Grayson and Murphy, shared pictures of themselves on social media to capture the sit-in, since the official House cameras were turned off amid the disruption. (As an alternative, CSPAN was airing a live Periscope feed from U.S. Rep. Scott Peters of California.)

Continue reading "Grayson, Murphy join fellow House members in sit-in over gun bills" »

Jeb Bush would back Marco Rubio if asked

via @learyreports

Jeb Bush memorably criticized Marco Rubio on the presidential campaign trail of abandoning his Senate duties to jump for higher office. But Bush harbors no hard feelings toward Rubio.

Asked by email this afternoon if he'd back Rubio's Senate campaign, Bush replied quickly.

"If he asks, I would be happy to back him."


--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Andrew Korge switches Florida Senate races in Miami-Dade

@ByKristenMClark & @MaryEllenKlas


In a major shake-up for two of Miami-Dade’s closely watched state Senate races, Democrat Andrew Korge is once again switching which public office he wants voters to elect him to in November.

Instead of challenging Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores in District 39, Korge will now run for the District 40 seat, he told the Herald/Times, confirming rumors that have swirled in South Florida political circles for the past couple weeks.

His decision sets up a three-way Democratic primary in District 40 against former state representative Ana Rivas Logan and current state Sen. Dwight Bullard and all-but-hands Flores her re-election unless Democrats can produce a viable replacement to challenge her with two days left in the qualifying period.

Korge planned to announce his decision Wednesday afternoon, when he filed his qualifying papers in Tallahassee. Candidates have until noon Friday to qualify and thereby secure their places on the August primary or November general election ballots.

“As a third-generation Miamian, it has long been a dream of mine to serve my community as a member of the Florida Senate, to create a better future for our children, to improve public schools and protect college students, and create high-wage jobs for hard-working, middle-class families,” Korge said in a statement. “District 40, where I grew up and spent half of my life, offers the best opportunity to do that.”

More here.

Ron DeSantis drops Senate bid, will run for re-election to Congress

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, is dropping out of the Senate race in favor of a re-election bid in northeast Florida.

Following news this morning that Sen. Marco Rubio would seek re-election, DeSantis said in a statement that the "contours" of the race were changed and that the incumbent was a "strong bet to win."

DeSantis launched his Senate run after Rubio declared he would not try for re-election if he lost his presidential primary bid. And congressional redistricting shifted the lines near Jacksonville, moving his hometown to the 4th District and leaving most of his constituents in the 6th District, which he currently represents.

"In light of the Rubio development, I can best advance the cause by running for reelection to the U.S. House in the 6th Congressional District, where I can continue protecting taxpayers, promoting economic growth, helping our veterans, and supporting our military," DeSantis said in a statement.

The announcement makes him the third candidate to clear out and make room for Rubio. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and U.S. Rep. David Jolly also backed out of the Republican Senate primary. Two millionaire businessmen, Todd Wilcox and Carlos Beruff, are staying in the race to challenge Rubio.

Marco Rubio wins Club for Growth endorsement

via @learyreports

The Club for Growth endorsed Marco Rubio for Senate and pushed Rep. Ron DeSantis on another House run

“The Club for Growth PAC has been determined to keep this Florida Senate seat in the hands of economic conservatives since November 2014, when we first endorsed Senator Rubio’s re-election,” said Club for Growth President David McIntosh. “When Marco announced his retirement from the Senate and launched his presidential bid, the Club’s PAC was quick to endorse Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has a 96% lifetime Club score. With today’s announcement by Senator Rubio and the anticipation that Rep. DeSantis will run again in FL-06, we are committed to the re-election of both of these pro-growth candidates. They will remain leaders in their respective chambers, and we believe Rep. DeSantis clearly has great potential for a run at the Senate in 2018.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Report: Florida gets an 'F' for failing racial and gender diversity among court judges

Florida supreme court.1_12061496_8colFlorida is one of 26 states to receive a failing grade for its gender and racial diversity, according to the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, progressive legal organization. Florida ranked 29 out of 51 state court jurisdictions in the country because it's judiciaries are 45% less diverse than the state population.

The findings echo some of the research done by the Herald/Times in 2014, which found that Gov. Rick Scott appointed only nine black attorneys to judgeships in his first four years. 

The report, authored by law professors Tracey E. George and Albert H. Yoon, compiled the race, ethnicity, and gender of 10,000 sitting judges on state courts. It is  titled The Gavel Gap: Who Sits in Judgement at State Courts?

“The vast majority of Americans’ interactions with the judicial system, ranging from traffic violations to criminal proceedings, happen in state courts,” said George of Vanderbilt University. “When people do not see themselves represented in their community leadership, when the vast majority of judges cannot relate to the lived experience of those they serve—this is a problem. It creates a mistrust of judges, and propagates the mystery surrounding the court system. For the first time, we have the data we need to identify and address this serious problem.”

Photo: Tampa Bay Times