June 15, 2016

Patrick Murphy: 'You bet' I'm ready to take on Marco Rubio if he runs

@ByKristenMClark

Patrickmurphy01wmmWith it looking ever-more likely that Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will change his mind and seek re-election, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy says he's ready for the challenge -- and he's pre-emptively going on the offensive against his potential opponent.

Speaking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday evening, Murphy said: "This isn't about Senator Rubio. It is about the people of Florida, about making sure they have someone who's going to fight for them, that's not going to miss a historic amount of votes in committees or vote against this terrorist loophole that I think is largely responsible for what just happened the other day."

"It sounds like if he reconsiders and decides to seek re-election, you're ready to battle?" Blitzer asked.

"You bet," replied Murphy, a congressman from Jupiter.

Murphy noted to Blitzer that he "announced against Senator Rubio a year ago, a year and a half ago when he was still in this race."

While it's true Rubio was still unofficially on track to seek re-election when Murphy declared his Senate candidacy on March 23, 2015, it was largely expected by that point that Rubio would dive into the presidential race -- leaving a rare open U.S. Senate seat for Florida.

Rubio did just that three weeks later on April 13, 2015. (He ended his presidential bid in mid-March after a dismal showing in the Florida primary.)

By comparison, Democrat Pam Keith -- who was the first of the major party contenders to enter the 2016 U.S. Senate race -- declared her challenge to Rubio in mid-November 2014. The other Democratic primary contender, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, announced his campaign in early July 2015.

Grayson's campaign also spoke out Wednesday evening about the rumors circulating around Rubio. He, too, was on the attack.

"The establishment's push to get a feckless Marco Rubio into this race will merely serve up another NRA-backed Republican who's hostile to gay rights and wants Donald Trump to be president," Grayson campaign spokeswoman Brooke Hines said in a statement. "Trump's brand of bigotry, like Rubio's outdated politics, no longer fit in Florida."

Murphy, Grayson and Keith will face off in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

Blitzer invited Murphy on CNN primarily to discuss local, state and federal authorities' ongoing investigation into the Orlando shooting. (More on that here.)

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

 

Republican David Jolly will reveal plans Friday: Senate or House?

via @learyreports

David Jolly will announce Friday morning whether he will remain in the U.S. Senate race or seek re-election to the House.

Jolly told the Tampa Bay Times' Buzz blog he will make his decision regardless of whether Marco Rubio has said what he will do. Jolly plans an 11 a.m. event but has not set the location.

He remains convinced Rubio will run for re-election.

Rubio, who attended a Florida delegation meeting on Zika, declined to answer a question the race.

June 14, 2016

Todd Wilcox in first campaign ad: 'Arab Sunni Muslim terrorism' threatens Western society

@ByKristenMClark

Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox launched his first campaign ad online today, emphasizing the need to eliminate ISIS.

"Arab Sunni Muslim terrorism is a threat to all of Western society," Wilcox says to begin the 35-second spot. "If we don't take the fight to ISIS now, we'll be fighting them here at home. We should use every pillar of American power to destroy ISIS."

The ad's debut came on the first day of Wilcox's three-day campaign tour to discuss national security with voters across Florida.

Wilcox is among five Republicans running in the Aug. 30 primary for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat.

June 13, 2016

In 'clerical error,' a dead man donated to Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign

@ByKristenMClark

MurphyEighteen months after he died, a southern California businessman was reported to have cut two $2,700 checks to Democrat Patrick Murphy's U.S. Senate campaign in Florida.

The max donation to Murphy's campaign that was attributed to the late Vincent Gorguze was revealed by The San Diego Union-Tribune in a story late last week.

The U.S. Senate campaign for Murphy, a Jupiter congressman, told the Herald/Times on Monday it was a "clerical error" that caused the donation to be incorrectly tied to Gorguze, when it should have been listed under his widow's name.

The Union-Tribune reported that Gorguze -- father-in-law to California Democratic U.S. Rep. Scott Peters -- was listed as a campaign contributor for $8,000 in donations since his death in October 2013.

Most of it went to Murphy's campaign in two donations totaling $5,400 on April 14, 2015. The remaining $2,600 went to the re-election campaign of another California member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, the newspaper reported.

Like Murphy's campaign explained, Peters' campaign told the Union-Tribune that the contributions to Murphy were mistakenly made under Gorguze's name instead of his widow, Gloria Gorguze.

But the Peters campaign also appeared to lay blame on Murphy's campaign for not verifying the source of the donation.

"Donors can’t control how a campaign receiving a contribution reports that contribution," Peters spokeswoman MaryAnne Pintar told the Union-Tribune. "It is incumbent upon that receiving campaign to report contributions correctly. These errors were not on the part of the Peters family."

Murphy spokesman Joshua Karp said in an email to the Herald/Times that Murphy's "campaign has a process for ensuring the correct attribution of donations."

"Our campaign received a check from a joint checking account and a signature that was difficult to read," Karp said. "In a clerical error, the check was misattributed to Mrs. Gorguze's late husband. As soon as we found out about this error, we filed a correction."

Karp said that correction was filed Friday -- which was the same day the Union-Tribune story was published online.

Photo credit: Walter Michot / Miami Herald

Todd Wilcox announces statewide tour to discuss national security

@ByKristenMClark

Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox will embark on a three-day statewide tour this week to discuss national security issues with voters.

The tour -- which his campaign has titled "Preserving Peace through Strength" -- will stop in Tampa, Pensacola, Tallahassee, Amelia Island and Jacksonville between Tuesday and Thursday. (The tour does not include stops in South Florida.)

Wilcox's campaign had been planning the tour for a couple weeks, but the discussion topic is especially timely after the Orlando nightclub shooting on Sunday -- the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history perpetrated by a U.S. citizen who, authorities say, pledged support for ISIS in a 911 call shortly before the attack.

"As we approach this historic election, we must examine the context of our current U.S. foreign policy and national security strategy within which our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are serving," Wilcox said in a statement.

He added: "The unspeakable act of terror in my hometown this weekend remains on the forefront of concern this week for all of us and my hope is that this previously scheduled series of events serves as an opportunity to have thoughtful dialogue with veterans, GOP activists, community leaders, concerned Floridians and business owners about the impact our nation’s foreign policy has on our safety and security here at home."

Wilcox himself is a combat veteran and former CIA case officer.

Wilcox's Tallahassee stop on Wednesday will be held at the Florida Bureau of Elections, indicating that's when Wilcox might officially file his qualifying papers for the Aug. 30 primary.

Here is the schedule for his tour:

Continue reading "Todd Wilcox announces statewide tour to discuss national security" »

Marco Rubio rethinking political future after Orlando shooting, radio host says

via @elizabethrkoh of McClatchy D.C.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has said for months that he will not seek re-election to the Senate once his term expires in January. But Sunday’s mass shooting that claimed 50 lives in an Orlando gay nightclub may have him reconsidering his political future, radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt said the senator told him Monday.

Hewitt, in his tweet, did not elaborate if Rubio’s potential plans involved returning to the Senate. Rubio has also rejected speculation that he would run for Florida’s governorship in 2018.

Rubio, if he decided to launch a Senate re-election bid, has until June 24 to file to run for his old Senate seat.

More here.

June 12, 2016

'This is our Paris': Florida U.S. Senate candidates react to Orlando nightclub shooting

@ByKristenMClark

The eight Republican and Democratic contenders for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat were quick to weigh in this morning on social media about the deadliest mass shooting in American history, which happened overnight at an Orlando nightclub.

Most offered measured responses for thoughts and prayers, while one spoke of her support for gun control and another laid definitive -- but yet unproven -- blame for the gunman's motive.

Republican candidate Carlos Beruff called the tragedy "an evil act of a radical Islamic terrorist in Orlando." He added: "Thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families this morning."

As of this morning, local, state and federal authorities were still investigating the gunman and his potential motives. He has been identified as Omar Mateen, of Port St. Lucie. He is of Afghan descent. Investigators are exploring whether Mateen could have been self-radicalized, or had connections to overseas terrorism groups, the Miami Herald reported.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Pam Keith, of Miami, tweeted in the wake of the shooting: "I will NEVER cease advocating for measures that will reduce the number of Americans who die from gun violence." (Along a similar vein, the Florida League of Women Voters issued a call to action this morning, demanding better gun control laws in Florida.)

Democratic candidate and current U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson -- whose Orlando-based district is a few miles away from the Pulse nightclub where the shooting occurred -- called it a "terrorist attack" and posted information on his Facebook page about grief counseling services available to Orlando-area residents and the need for blood donations.

In a statement, Grayson said: "Our thoughts and our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the entire Orlando community. Words cannot express the horror, pain and sadness that we feel about this terrible loss. I commend the Orlando police for their heroic efforts to save the lives of those who could be saved."

Republican Todd Wilcox, an Orlando businessman, said he was "holding my girls a little closer this morning."

"Prayers for those impacted by the unspeakable act of terror in our hometown of Orlando," he tweeted. 

Democratic Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy said he was "devastated by the news of the shooting in Orlando." Murphy represents northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, including Port St. Lucie where authorities say the gunman was from.

"My heart goes out to the victims, their friends and family, and all those affected by this horrifying tragedy, including those in the LGBT community," Murphy wrote on Facebook. "Orlando is stronger than this act of hate and evil. Thank you to our first responders for your brave and selfless actions." 

Republican Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. David Jolly, of Indian Shores, said: "This is our Paris. Let us never forget -- and let us always resolve to confront and defeat terror at the hands of evil."

Republican Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera said: "Our prayers are with those and their families devastated by last night’s act of terror."

Added Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach: "My thoughts & prayers are with the victims, families & people of Orlando. Thanks to law enforcement who responded to this act of terror."

June 10, 2016

Todd Wilcox inducted into Army ROTC Hall of Fame

@ByKristenMClark

Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox was inducted into the Army ROTC Hall of Fame on Friday during a ceremony at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

Wilcox is a combat veteran and former CIA case officer. When he was younger, he earned an Army ROTC scholarship to attend the University of Tampa.

"It was there that I shed this idea that I didn't deserve more. It was there that I learned the value of hard work, the necessity of personal discipline and the value of genuine leadership," Wilcox said in a statement released by his campaign. "I am living proof that circumstances be damned -- we all have a right to succeed in this country so long as we are willing to work and sacrifice for it."

He credited his career accomplishments to the fact that "a little over 30 years ago the Reserve Officers Training Corps took a chance on a kid from the wrong side of town."

"What began as a way out, ultimately became the way up and I owe that to the ROTC," Wilcox said.

Wilcox is among five Republican candidates for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat, currently held by Marco Rubio.

Read more about Wilcox's life in this Herald/Times profile published Friday.

The two Carloses of Florida's U.S. Senate race trade barbs

@ByKristenMClark

Continuing to dog his primary opponent for skipping a political forum last week, Republican Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera on Friday offered to pay for an Uber ride for fellow U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff so that Beruff could meet him on an event stage this weekend in Sarasota County.

Lopez Cantera's jab included a veiled reference to a speeding ticket Beruff once got for going 103 mph, as well as an attack on Beruff for supporting Charlie Crist after the former governor famously denounced the Republican Party and declared himself first an independent and then a Democrat.

The response from Beruff and his campaign: Calling Lopez Cantera a "lightweight" whose "obsession" with Beruff is "a little sad" and accusing Lopez Cantera of being "Charlie Crist's majority leader."

Beruff's absence from a political forum in South Florida last week has made him a prime target in recent days for his primary opponents in the race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

The Boca Raton event was supposed to be the first political forum that featured all five Republican contenders. Beruff's campaign initially claimed a scheduling conflict, but then Beruff told a Sarasota TV station he "was never gonna go."

Earlier this week, Lopez Cantera accused Beruff of playing "political dodgeball" and avoiding voters. And then businessman Todd Wilcox, another candidate, questioned Beruff's manhood in an open letter on Thursday because Beruff said his four opponents weren't "worth debating." (The other two candidates in the GOP primary are U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly.)

In a statement today, Lopez Cantera said he was "excited to be heading back to Mr. Beruff's backyard this weekend for the NOVA Republican Club Picnic in Venice." Beruff is a developer from nearby Manatee County.

"So Mr. Beruff, here is my challenge to you: Voters deserve to hear why you thought it was appropriate to support Charlie Crist after he left the Republican Party and voters deserve to hear why you took a hard stance against Obama’s Cuba policy when you yourself traveled to Cuba to advocate for Obama’s policies," Lopez Cantera said. “If you are not afraid to answer these questions and maybe a few more, I look forward to seeing you there, and to avoid any urge to speed I am happy to send an Uber to pick you up and drop you back off."

Beruff's campaign followed up this afternoon with a statement, blasting Lopez Cantera as a "professional politician (who) forgets part of his own resume."

"The Lieutenant Governor's obsession with Carlos Beruff is starting to get a little sad, but this is what professional politicians do when they're desperate – they sling mud," Beruff spokesman Chris Hartline said. "Charlie Crist's Majority Leader, who helped advance Charlie's liberal policies -- including $2.2 billion in tax increases on Florida families, is slinging mud because he can't defend his own record."

Speaking to a Herald/Times reporter at a Jacksonville campaign stop today, Beruff himself called Lopez Cantera a "lightweight."

To clarify, Beruff's jab about Crist isn't entirely accurate. While Lopez Cantera took over as House majority leader in late 2010 -- while Crist was still in office -- he actually led the chamber during the first two years of Republican Gov. Rick Scott's administration.

After seeing Beruff's campaign statement, Lopez Cantera spokeswoman Courtney Alexander asked: "So is that a 'no' to the Uber? Or a 'no' to Charlie Crist?"

Herald/Times reporter Jeremy Wallace contributed to this report from Jacksonville.

Ex-CIA officer Todd Wilcox portrays himself as 'warrior' running for U.S. Senate

Wilcox042316_24-3

via @michaelauslen

Before the United States invaded Iraq, Todd Wilcox led some of the first Americans on the ground as a CIA officer.

In Operation Desert Storm, he earned a Bronze Star after his Army platoon captured more than 250 Iraqi soldiers. From a Japanese base, he led a team of snipers in hostage situations throughout East Asia.

Florida Senate candidate Todd Wilcox speaks to members and guests of the Plant City Republican Women Federated Women’s Club meeting in Plant City, April 21, 2016.David W. Doonan Tampa Bay Times

More than a decade later, though, he’s struggling to command attention on a new, political battlefield at the Florida Gun Show.

It’s a friendly crowd for a guy like Wilcox, a life member of the NRA who’s shopping for a new scope for his gun, as well as for voters. But few passersby stop under the “Restoring America’s Prominence” banner he set up that May morning to hear his earnest pitch to replace Marco Rubio as the next U.S. senator from Florida.

“That apathy’s going to kill us,” says Wilcox, 49, one of five Republicans angling for attention in a race full of unknowns and little-knowns. By “us” he doesn’t just mean his own campaign; he means the United States.

Apathy is the first step toward the failure of America’s 240-year experiment with democracy, he says. Career politicians have turned voters off government, making them complacent and the nation vulnerable.

Wilcox insists he isn’t like those politicians.

He says it’s time for a change. More specifically: “It’s time to elect a warrior.”

Full story here.

Photo credit: David W. Doonan / Tampa Bay Times