Carlos Lopez-Cantera Archives - Page 6 of 32 - Florida Politics

Email Insights: Carlos Lopez-Cantera calls on nation to stand up to radical terrorism

Carlos Lopez-Cantera urged the nation to work together to stand up to “radical terrorism.”

In an email to supporters Monday, the lieutenant governor called the shooting at an Orlando nightclub an act of terrorism, and said it was a sober reminder that “terrorists will not think twice about coming after the United States.”

“We must work as a nation to completely and wholly eradicate ISIS and the evil they stand for,” said Lopez-Cantera, one of five Republicans running for the Senate. “We as a nation must stand up to the radical terrorism that threatens our way of life, we as a nation must come together to have hope in a horrible time, and we as a nation must pray for Florida.”

Lopez-Cantera told supporters he spent time in Orlando on Sunday and Monday with Gov. Rick Scott, and said the “sense of community and love we are seeing is proof that we are a resilient people.”

“The acts of selflessness in Orlando have been truly remarkable, from over 1,500 in line to donate blood to volunteers handing out water,” he said. “This community, state and country is showing the world that we refuse to be intimidated into changing our lives because of a cowardly act of evil.”

He went on to call the law enforcement officers “true heroes,” and said their “bravery must be commended.”

Lopez-Cantera faces Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox in the race Aug. 30 Republican primary. All five are vying to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

Todd Wilcox to focus on national security during statewide tour

Todd Wilcox will focus on national security during a three-day campaign swing through the state later this week.

Wilcox, one of five Republicans running for U.S. Senate, announced Monday he plans to discuss national security issues on his three-day “Preserving Peace through Strength” campaign swing. The statewide tour will come just days after 49 people were killed and more than 50 were injured in a mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub.

In a statement Monday, the Orlando Republican said campaign tour was part of a “previously scheduled series of events.”

“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,” he said. “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 is a combat veteran and former CIA case officer. He is one of two veterans, along with Rep. Ron DeSantis, hoping to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

Rep. David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Carlos Beruff are also running. The Republican primary is Aug. 30.

Wilcox kicks off the statewide tour Wednesday with stops in Tampa and Pensacola. On Thursday, he’ll attend a breakfast in Pensacola, before traveling to Tallahassee and Amelia Island. He’ll spend the final day of the tour in Jacksonville.


Rick Scott requests emergency declaration from Barack Obama after Orlando shooting

Gov. Rick Scott has requested President Barack Obama declare a state of emergency in Florida.

In a letter to the president Monday, Scott asked the president to declare an emergency in Florida for the “horrific massacre committed by a terrorist in Orlando.” The governor said he asked for the state of emergency so the full resources of the government can be made available for those impacted.

An armed gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside Pulse Orlando, a popular gay nightclub, early Sunday morning. Law enforcement officers have said 49 people were killed, and another 53 were hospitalized. The shooter — identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie — was killed at the scene.

Scott said Monday he has been in constant contact with federal, state and local law enforcement officers. The Naples Republican also said he has spoken to the hospitals caring for the victims, and has been in touch with some of the victims’ families “to let them know we are grieving with them and will be there for them every step of the way.”

“Our state is mourning, but the Orlando community is strong. We are all coming together, and we will get through this together,” said Scott in a statement. “I ask every American to continue to pray for our state and nation and all those affected by this terror attack.”

Scott traveled to Orlando Sunday, where he was joined by Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. In a statement Monday, Lopez-Cantera said he has been on the ground in Orlando and “the sense of community and love we see here is proof that we are a resilient people.”

“We as Americans have shown and will continue to show that we cannot and will not be intimidated into changing our way of life by evil,” said Lopez-Cantera in a statement. “The State of Florida has offered all resources available, and will continue to be in constant contact with all agencies involved. Our prayers are with those and their families devastated by last night’s act of terror, and we will be doing everything possible to support.”


National security, gun control likely front and center in Senate race after Orlando shooting

The deadly shooting in Orlando over the weekend will likely bring national security and gun control to the forefront of Florida’s U.S. Senate race.

Early Sunday morning, a gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside Pulse Orlando, a popular gay nightclub. Law enforcement officers said Sunday 50 people were killed, and another 53 were hospitalized. The shooter — identified as Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie — was killed at the scene.

Law enforcement officials were investigating whether the shooting, which has been called the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, was an act of domestic or international terrorism.

In the hours after the shooting, U.S. Senate candidates offered their condolences and prayers, and a few gave a peek into the discussions candidates may be having in the coming weeks about their position on national security, gun control and terrorism.

“An evil act of a radical Islamic terrorist in Orlando,” said Carlos Beruff, one of five Republicans vying for his party’s nomination, said in a statement on Twitter. “Thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

In April, the Beruff said he suggested it wasn’t safe “to allow anybody from the Middle East” into the country. The comment came in response to a question about his position on Muslim immigration.

“I stand by my answer and will repeat: anyone with ties, or possible ties, to terrorism should not be allowed in the United States,” he said in a statement one day later on April 26.

Such a policy likely would have done little to stop the incident in Orlando this weekend. The shooter was born in New York, and moved to Florida with his family several years ago.

Two of the Republicans running for the seat — Rep. Ron DeSantis and Todd Wilcox — have military experience. On Sunday, neither man commented on the issue of national security, instead sending prayers and condolences to the community.

“Prayers for those impacted by the unspeakable act of terror in our hometown of Orlando,” said Wilcox in a statement on Twitter. “Holding my girls a little closer this morning.”

Said DeSantis on Twitter: “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families and people of Orlando. Thanks to law enforcement who responded to this act of terror.”

Rep. David Jolly said the country needs to resolve “to always confront and defeat terror.”

“We join together today as a nation to pray for the Orlando victims and their loved ones,” he said in a statement. “This is our Paris. Let us resolve today to always confront and defeat terror at the hands of evil so that this may never happen again.”

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera also sent prayers to the community. Lopez-Cantera attended a vigil with Gov. Rick Scott in Orlando on Sunday evening, according to Arek Sarkissian with the Naples Daily News.

“Our prayers are with those and their families devastated by last night’s act of terror,” said Lopez-Cantera in a tweet Sunday morning.

Republicans weren’t the only ones to weigh in Sunday. Rep. Alan Grayson, an Orlando Democrat, said commended Orlando police “for their heroic efforts to save the lives of those who could be saved.”

“Our thoughts and our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the entire Orlando community,” he said in a statement. “Words cannot express the horror, pain and sadness that we feel about this terrible loss.”

Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat, also sent his condolences to the community.

“I am devastated by the news of the shooting in Orlando. My heart goes out to the victims and all those affected by this horrifying tragedy,” he said on Twitter. “Orlando is stronger than this act of hate and evil. Thank you to our brave first responders for your selfless actions.”

While Senate candidates refrained from turning to politics on Sunday, it’s likely the incident will play into their campaign in the coming weeks. The shooting has already emerged as a topic on the national stage, with both presumptive presidential nominees weighing in.

Democrat Hillary Clinton used the shooting to push for gun control, saying the shooting “reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.” Clinton also said the country needs to redouble its efforts “to defend our country from threats at home and abroad.”

“That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home,” she said in a statement. “It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values.”

Republican Donald Trump used the moment to call on President Barack Obama to step down, because he refused to use the words “radical Islam” in his comments. Trump also said he predicted an incident like this would happen, and said “it is only going to get worse.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


The opposite and equal movements of Marco Rubio, David Jolly, and Charlie Crist

Going on seven years, the most consistent storyline in Florida politics — beyond the sheer craziness of #FloridaMan — is the linked, often inverted fates of Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist.

When Rubio is up, as he was at the end of Election Day in 2010, Crist was down. When Rubio’s stock plummeted in 2012-13, Crist’s was on the rise as he changed parties and snapped pictures from the White House.

Once again this year, what Rubio has done has created an opposite-and-equal reaction in Crist.

Rubio not running for re-election to the U.S. Senate created the open seat for U.S. Rep David Jolly to throw his hat in, thereby opening the door for Crist to win Jolly’s seat in Congress.

Now, with candidate qualifying underway, there is intense pressure on Rubio to reconsider his decision not to run. Whatever Rubio decides, this process is already having an impact on Cristworld, as Jolly is being urged by many GOP leaders to do his own reconsidering about running in Congressional District 13.

Here are five things I think about the opposite-and-equal movements of Rubio, Jolly, and Crist.

1. I’m back in the camp that says Rubio will not run for re-election to the U.S. Senate.

This thinking has nothing to do with the fact that he’s headlining a fundraiser for Carlos Lopez-Cantera on June 24. CLC is a very nice guy and a more savvy operator than his time as lieutenant governor/candidate for the U.S. Senate has allowed him to display, but he’s a beta, not an alpha. Just look at how Rick Scott‘s office has treated him, for goodness’ sake. If Rubio told him to scoot over, Lopez-Cantera would make room.

No, what tells me Rubio won’t run for the Senate is that two of his top staffers, Terry Sullivan and Alex Conantjust launched their own consulting firm. Who knows better what Rubio is really thinking than those guys, right? Would they really have hung out their own shingle without checking with the boss? Sure, they could still help Rubio through their shop, but not as easily if they were free agents. Sullivan and Conant would appear to share one of the same goals as their principal: it’s time to make some freakin’ money!

1a. The most significant development about Jolly’s thinking is not that he may or may not be reconsidering running for CD 13, it’s that if he does reconsider, he would do so separate of whatever Rubio does. Jolly — the freakin’ frontrunner, mind you and probably  —

2. Jolly is one of the best new members of Congress we’ve seen; too bad he didn’t like campaigning

Why do so many Republicans want Jolly to run for re-election to Congress? Sure, some of it is to foil Crist’s return to electoral politics, but hating Crist only gets you so far. The reality is that in his brief time in Congress the moderate, statesmanlike Jolly has demonstrated he is a caring, hard-working public servant. And to many other Republican elected officials, he is exactly what they’d like to be if they didn’t have to worry about extremists on their right pulling them in that direction.

That said, Jolly has made it clear he detests campaigning. One might suggest he’s allergic to the grip-and-grin of retail politics. He abhors raising money, so much so that he is proposing a law that, among other things, gives him an excuse not to spend all day dialing for dollars. Running for the U.S. Senate, he’s been much less visible on the campaign trail than the ubiquitous Carlos Lopez-Cantera or as aggressive as Carlos Beruff. He doesn’t excite the conservative establishment like U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and he does not have the personal story or resources of Todd Wilcox. Yet he’s still the slight frontrunner. Why? Because if Central Casting were to send over what a member of the U.S. Senate was supposed to look and act like, they’d send over someone who looked and acted like Jolly.

3. Doesn’t Jack Latvala have better things to do than screw with Charlie Crist?

Jack Latvala likes Charlie Crist about as much as David Jolly likes fundraising.

A few years back, Latvala told me he was going to do everything in his power to keep Crist from winning the Governor’s Mansion in 2014 and, although Latvala did not have much impact on the race, Crist still lost. (It should be pointed out just how poorly Latvala slurping Gov. Scott paid off for the senator; in 2015, Scott specifically vetoed most of Latvala’s legislative appropriations. Would a Governor Crist have done that?) Latvala even showed up at a stop on Crist’s book tour to troll his former colleague. That’s how much Latvala despises Crist. It goes back to when they both served in the Senate and pretty boy Charlie got all the headlines while the wonkish Latvala had not yet become a media darling.

Fast forward to 2016 and Latvala is in a stronger position than Crist — and he’s not afraid of reminding Crist of that. So Latvala is rounding up his gang — Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Rep. Kathleen Peters, etc. — and hosting a fundraiser for Jolly, who Latvala worked overtime to stop from winning the 2015 special election to succeed Bill Young.

It’s amazing that Latvala — the incoming chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, printing company owner, newlywed among other titles — has the time to screw with Crist, but I guess he never sleeps.

Latvala’s last-minute push to get Jolly to run against Crist foreshadows what life in Pinellas politics may be like once the senior senator from Pinellas is term-limited out of office in 2018. Latvala’s gonna have his fingers in everyone else’s pie, whether they like it or not.

4. The Republicans opposing Crist are the same ones who lost backing Bill Foster over Rick Kriseman in 2013

A last-minute push by local Republicans to stop a popular Democrat. If the storyline sounds familiar, it should because it’s the same scenario that played out in 2013 when Latvala, Rick Baker and Co. reluctantly, then all at once backed Foster over Kriseman in St. Petersburg’s mayoral race. Many of these folks are my friends and clients, so I can’t dog them too much, but if they have a fault, it’s that they wait until the last minute to prepare for a storm that has been on the radar for some time.

Kriseman and Kathleen Ford were identified threats for months before they were mayoral candidates, yet there was no effort to pre-emptively define them. Then, once the polls showed them up, the local Republicans half-heartedly attempted to rally around Foster. But by then it was too late.

Polls show Crist as popular as ice cream in CD 13 — and so what are local Republicans doing? A last-minute rallying around one of their own, when their best opportunity to stop Crist was six months ago.

5. Crist will narrowly defeat Jolly 

There are very few subject areas about which I consider myself an expert. G.I. Joe comic books. Truffle oil. Late-Republic Roman history. And St. Petersburg and Pinellas politics.

Just like I know the origins of Cobra Commander, how delicious Fabrique Delicies’ white truffle oil is, and that Lucius Cornelis Sulla (not Caesar) was the first Roman general to march troops on the Eternal City, so too can I say with near certainty that my friend Charlie Crist will beat my friend David Jolly. Because it’s a presidential year. And because the Republicans have nominated Donald Trump as their standard bearer.

Latvala is right when he says, “There are people that don’t normally vote — people in places like Lealman, places like Pinellas Park, that are whipped up by Donald Trump, and those are people who will vote for David Jolly over Charlie Crist.”

But want to know who will be “whipped up” to vote in the presidential election? Every Democrat who lives in Democratic-leaning CD 13, especially the tens of thousands of African American voters who are downright frightened by the Trump movement.

In 2015, Jolly narrowly defeated Alex Sink in a district more favorable to Republicans. Crist may have more baggage than Sink, but he also has considerably deeper roots in the community than Sink had.

As for money, there is this fantasy that national Republicans will pour money into this race like they did in 2015 because of how much they don’t like Crist. Much of that money came from the National Republican Congressional Committee — the same NRCC Jolly just went on “60 Minutes” to insult.

There will be those who will say my family is too close to Crist to be objective about this race. That could not be further from the truth. In 2014, there was no more consistent critic of Crist’s campaign tactics, so much so that I was all but ex-communicated from Cristworld for long stretches. And while we have raised a considerable amount for Crist’s congressional campaign, my family has also donated $2,000 to Jolly’s U.S. Senate campaign.

But that’s the kind of year it is in Florida politics. One friend runs against another. And that’s why, especially in Pinellas politics, it’s important to remember that candidates come and go, but true friends remain that way.

Carlos Beruff files paperwork for U.S. Senate race

Carlos Beruff made it official.

On Wednesday, the Manatee County Republican’s campaign filed the paperwork to run for U.S. Senate. Beruff was not on hand in Tallahassee, but said in a statement that he is grateful for the support his campaign has received.

“Since launching my campaign, I’ve traveled to all 67 Florida counties. I’ve met with voters, local law enforcement and community leaders to hear their concerns and share my plan to bring business experience and real public service back to D.C.,” he said in a statement. “I feel stronger than ever about our campaign knowing the people of Florida are fed up with the status quo and tired of sending career politicians to represent them.”

Beruff is one of five Republicans vying to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. He’ll face Ron DeSantis, David Jolly, Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Todd Wilcox in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

Monday marked the first day of the pre-qualifying period. In Florida, candidates are allowed to submit their papers during a 14-day period ahead of the official start of the qualifying period. The official qualifying period for candidates runs from noon on June 20 until noon on June 24.

Beruff may be the first Republican to file his paperwork, but he isn’t the only U.S. Senate hopeful to do it this week.

On Monday, Democrat Patrick Murphy filed the necessary paperwork to formally enter the race. Murphy will face Alan Grayson and Pam Keith in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera campaign calls out Carlos Beruff out for playing ‘political dodgeball’

Carlos Lopez-Cantera is taking a swipe at Carlos Beruff, saying his Republican opponent is playing “political dodgeball” with Florida voters.

In a memo Wednesday, Courtney Alexander, a spokeswoman for the Lopez-Cantera campaign, said Beruff has dodged voters on several occasions. She pointed to Beruff’s decision to skip a Senate forum and questions about a trip to Cuba as examples.

“Just last week, Carlos Beruff dodged Florida voters by canceling yet another public appearance with Carlos Lopez-Cantera and other candidates at the first Republican Senate forum, thinking he could get away with avoiding Floridians,” she said in the memo. “Beruff is truly mastering the five D’s of political dodgeball every time he continues to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and again, dodge the voters. It’s as if Beruff is fronting his own dodgeball team.”

Beruff was expected to attend a Republican Senate forum organized by America First in Palm Beach on June 2. However, on the day of the event, Beruff’s campaign said he wouldn’t be at the forum because of “scheduling conflict.”

The four other candidates — Lopez-Cantera, David Jolly, Ron DeSantis, and Todd Wilcox — were in attendance.

The Lopez-Cantera campaign also said Beruff is dodging questions about a trip to Cuba. He visited the country in 2011 with a delegation of Tampa Bay area activists who were pushing for an end to the embargo. Beruff has taken a tough line on President Barack Obama’s decision to begin opening up diplomatic channels with the country.

“He could have clarified his positions had he attended last week’s forum, but instead Beruff chose to dodge standing before Florida voters and his Republican opponents in public forums. It all makes one wonder how many other future events ‘Bailing Beruff’ will cancel on to avoid his opponents,” said Alexander in her memo. “Are Floridians ever going to hear from Beruff in a forum or a debate or will he continue to treat the Senate race like a game of dodgeball?”

Poll: Democrats could win Florida’s Senate seat in November

Republicans may face a tough road ahead when it comes to Florida’s U.S. Senate seat.

A new Public Policy Polling survey found that Democrats would defeat two of the five Republican Senate candidates in hypothetical general election match-ups. The survey tested how Republicans Carlos Beruff and David Jolly would fare against Democrats Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson.

The survey found either Democratic candidate would come out on top against Beruff and Jolly.

The survey found that Murphy would defeat Beruff 43 percent to 31 percent in a head-to-head match-up. Murphy would garner support from 65 percent of Democrats and 43 percent of independent voters; while Beruff would get support from about 53 percent of Republicans.

Murphy could win by an even larger margin if Jolly is the nominee. The survey found Murphy would receive 44 percent of the vote, compared to 29 percent for Jolly. The survey found 55 percent of Hispanic voters and 72 percent of African-American voters would support Murphy. White voters would be split 35-35 percent between the two men.

Grayson also comes out on top in head-to-head match-ups with Beruff and Jolly. The survey found Grayson would defeat Beruff 41 percent to 32 percent. The race between Grayson and Jolly would be slightly closer, with Grayson receiving 40 percent to Jolly’s 33 percent.

The survey on 737 registered voters was conducted from June 2 through June 5. Forty-three percent of respondents self-identified as Democrats, 40 percent said they were Republicans, and 16 percent said they were independents. The survey has a margin of error of 3.6 percent.

Democrat Pam Keith and three other Republicans — Ron DeSantis, Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Todd Wilcox — are running to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. The U.S. Senate primary is Aug. 30.

Poll: 51% of Floridians say Marco Rubio shouldn’t run for re-election

Marco Rubio could face a tough general election were he to decide to run for re-election this year.

According to a new Public Policy Polling survey, 51 percent of voters polled said they do not think Rubio should run for re-election this year. Another 39 percent said Rubio should run; while 10 percent they were unsure.

The survey found 58 percent of voters who identified as Republicans thought he should run for the Senate. The survey found he would have support from people who identified as either somewhat or very conservative in a re-election bid.

Rubio, who ended his 2016 presidential bid in March, has said he would not seek another term in the U.S. Senate. However, several top-ranking Republicans have been urging him to run for re-election. The deadline to qualify for the seat in June 24.

The survey of 737 registered voters found 54 percent of respondents said they disapproved of Rubio’s performance. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they approved of his job performance; while 14 percent said they weren’t sure.

In a hypothetical general election match-up, Rubio received 43 percent to Democrat Patrick Murphy’s 44 percent. The survey found Rubio would defeat Democrat Alan Grayson in a hypothetical match-up, 43 percent to 38 percent.

“Marco Rubio’s image in Florida continues to be badly damaged in the wake of his failed presidential bid,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. “If he runs for the Senate, there’s a pretty good chance he’s going to suffer two political defeats in one year.”

But a re-election bid seems more unlikely each day. Rubio has made fundraising calls in the past for his friend Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who is one of five Republicans running for the seat, and is set to attend a fundraiser for the lieutenant governor on June 24 in Miami.

Lopez-Cantera faces Ron DeSantis, David Jolly, Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

The survey of 737 registered voters was conducted from June 2 until June 5. It has a margin of error of 3.6 percent.

Carlos Beruff visited Cuba with group dedicated to ending sanctions in 2011

Carlos Beruff takes a tough line on President Barack Obama’s rapprochement with the Cuban government, but just a few years ago appeared to be a strong advocate that just such a diplomatic breakthrough was desperately needed.

On the day the two nations announced they were resuming relations, the Bradenton Herald reported the Manatee County home developer and now Republican U.S. Senate candidate said he believed opening Cuba to the U.S. economy and culture would be the end of the Communist regime in that country.

Beruff visited Cuba in September of 2011 with a delegation of approximately 35-40 Tampa Bay area activists pushing for an end to the economic embargo and establishment of full trade relations with the Communist island. He did so at the invitation of his friend, the late Steve Burton. Burton was a managing partner with the Tampa law firm of Broad and Cassel. He also was a Republican fundraiser and an influential board member of the of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority instrumental in selecting Joe Lopano to run Tampa International Airport in 2010. He was the aviation authority chairman in 2011, and died at the age of 52 due to complications from heart surgery in 2013.

“He called me out of the blue and said, ‘Send me a check and send me a copy of your passport. You’ve got to come to Cuba with us.’ That’s how I went,” Beruff told WWSB-ABC 7 Sarasota news anchor Alan Cohn last Friday night about why he opted to visit the island. “The goal was simply to go as a mission to see what was there and what they wanted from us, and the truth of the matter is, quite frankly, what I saw quite frankly was disappointing, and I really had no interest when I got back,” Beruff said. “If you notice, I never paid attention to Cuba after that trip. ”

That trip was coordinated by Al Fox, the head of the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy, and the delegation was led by Burton and former Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern. Though there have been many trips since that time involving Tampa Bay public officials trying to position the region to prosper economically when and if the economic sanctions against the island nation are ultimately removed by Congress, that particular trip carried a lot of significance, being the first that traveled on a direct flight from Tampa to Havana.

Fox is a progressive Democrat who has worked tirelessly over the years to end the sanctions. Although his stance was somewhat out of step in the Tampa Bay area in 2006 when he lost a bid for an seat in congress in Hillsborough County that was won by Kathy Castor, his message has been embraced by many in the Tampa Bay area business and political establishment since then, with nobody becoming a bigger cheerleader for the efforts than Castor herself, who is a co-sponsor of a bill in the House of Representatives that calls for the end of the sanctions.

Beruff said it was only after he decided to go on the trip that he learned who Fox was.

Fox is in Cuba this week and unavailable for comment.

Beruff blasted President Obama after his visit to Havana earlier this year. Cohn asked Beruff why his trip was OK, but Obama’s wasn’t?

“I’m not the President of the United States,” Beruff replied. “I didn’t negotiate opening up with Cuba.” He went on to say he met with only one Cuban authority member. “They tried to sell us on the advantages of us normalizing travel. There’s a different thing.”

Vic DiMaio says he was the official photographer for the delegation. DiMaio is a Democratic strategist based in Hillsborough County who says Beruff met with several government officials during the delegation’s stay in Cuba, not just one. Beruff told Cohn that, “I don’t even remember that gentleman, ” referring to DiMaio.

“He, along with everyone else on the trip, felt the same way,” recounted DiMaio on Monday night. “We have to end this trade and travel embargo with Cuba. That’s the bottom line.”

Mulhern said she tended to believe that Beruff was there on a fact-finding mission, and little else. She disagreed with DiMaio’s comment that everyone on the trip believed in ending the sanctions.

Beruff is engaged in a five-man GOP senate primary field. He told Cohn that while he has always supported supported reestablishing relations with Cuba (where his parents were born), but only under “certain conditions,” conditions he said Obama never adhered to “in any way, shape or form” when he and Cuban president Raul Castro announced their diplomatic breakthrough in December of 2014.

Republicans across the country have been hostile to Obama’s rapprochement with the Castro-led government, saying his administration gave Raul and Fidel Castro a huge “publicity coup” and have not received anything sufficient in return for normalizing relations.

Advocates for restoring relations acknowledge the executive actions have been one-sided to date, but say they are worth doing to try to empower or seek to empower a new economic class in Cuba which actually could threaten the Cuban regime.

Beruff insists he’s never changed his position on Cuba, and says it’s the same as the man he hopes to succeed in Washington, Sen. Marco Rubio.

But Rubio has been an unrelenting advocate of maintaining the economic sanctions, saying that loosening of economic restrictions will empower the Communist government, which will continue to oppress the Cuban people.

Beruff also dismissed any concerns in the interview with Cohn about his failure to attend last week’s GOP senate forum in Boca Raton, saying he simply had a scheduling conflict. But he also threw in a dig at his four other competitors, who all did show up for the event.

“When there’s somebody worth debating,” he replied when asked if he will participate in other such forums. “At this point I don’t think there is any.” He later added that “at the appropriate time I’m sure we’ll have that opportunity.”

The issue was brought up on Tuesday by Carlos Lopez-Cantera, one of Beruff’s opponents running in the U.S. Senate race:

“As a candidate for the United States Senate, Beruff has an obligation to disclose the details of a trip that focused on normalizing relations with the Castro regime, stating if he met with dissidents, or any government interactions he had,” Lopez-Cantera says in a statement issued on Tuesday.

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