Carlos Lopez-Cantera Archives - Page 7 of 32 - Florida Politics

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.

Mason-Dixon poll: Carlos Beruff 17%, David Jolly 13%, Ron DeSantis 10%

Florida voters are still unsure who they’ll vote for in the U.S. Senate primary.

A new Mason-Dixon poll found 43 percent of likely Democrats and 49 percent of likely Republican voters said they did not know who they would vote for in the Aug. 30 Senate primary. The findings were first reported by POLITCO Florida.

According to the survey’s memo, “none of the current contenders appears to have caught fire with state voters.”

On the Republican side, 17 percent of likely Republican voters said they would support Carlos Beruff, while 13 percent said they would David Jolly. Ron DeSantis came in third with 10 percent backing, while Carlos Lopez-Cantera received 9 percent support. Todd Wilcox received 2 percent in the Mason-Dixon poll.

The Democratic race is a little clearer. Patrick Murphy leads the pack with 31 percent support, while Alan Grayson comes in at 23 percent. Pam Keith picked up 3 percent support.

The U.S. Senate primary survey sampled 400 likely Democratic and 400 likely Republican primary voters. It has a margin of error of 5 percent.


49% of Florida voters think Marco Rubio should run for re-election

Nearly half of Florida voters believe Marco Rubio should run for re-election in 2016.

According to a new Mason-Dixon survey, 49 percent of Florida voters said Rubio should run for re-election. The survey found 39 percent said he shouldn’t run again; while 12 percent said they weren’t sure.

The survey’s findings — which were first reported by POLITICO Florida — come as Republican leaders continue to push Rubio to run for re-election. Last week, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that Republicans were trying to draft him to run again. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker has also strongly encouraged him to run, and at least one U.S. Senate hopeful thinks Rubio might just throw his hat in the race.

The Mason-Dixon poll shows 77 percent of Republicans think Rubio should run again; while 62 percent of Democrats said he shouldn’t. More than half (53 percent) of men and 46 percent of women supported Rubio getting back in the race.

The survey also found he had strong support in many regions of the state. In Southwest Florida, 59 percent of respondents said he should run for re-election; while 53 percent of North Florida agreed he should again.

In southeast Florida, 41 percent said they thought Rubio should get back in the race; while 45 percent said he shouldn’t.

Rubio has said on several occasions that he doesn’t plan to run for re-election.

Five Republicans — Ron DeSantis, David Jolly, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Carlos Beruff, and Todd Wilcox — will face off in the Aug. 30 primary.

The poll of 625 registered voters was conducted from May 31 through June 2. All of the respondents indicated they were likely to vote in the November election. The margin of error is 4 perent.

Red meat, speeches at West Nassau Reagan Day event

The barbecue at the Westside Republican Club Reagan Day BBQ was legit, if the reactions of those eating it were any indication.

Serving it up: politicians, including a number of candidates in Florida’s 4th Congressional District.

Red meat was on the menu, and in the speeches as well.

State Sen. Aaron Bean was predictably florid and emphatic, making the case of the urgency of the election to the grassroots.

“Let me ask you, Nassau,” Bean thundered. “How’s Obamacare working for you?

After contending Hillary Clinton would be a continuation of the last eight years, Bean got off the line of the day: “What is our federal government concerned with? Housing for illegal transgender aliens.”


The big draws, in terms of speeches: Senate candidates Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Rep. Ron DeSantis, who delivered different messages in different styles.

Lopez-Cantera mentioned the political risk he took running with Rick Scott. “I didn’t run from Charlie Crist,” before launching into his familiar explanation of being a “Florida Republican,” where “we say we’re going to do something and we do it.”

“The Democratic Party is loaded for bear,” he said, declaring he’s “the only one who can beat them.”


DeSantis, for his part, has refined his primary stump speech.

The Ponte Vedra Republican, who spoke 45 minutes after he was scheduled, sat somewhat patiently with his wife at a table at the front.

The room was half-empty by the time DeSantis spoke, but it didn’t faze him: he hit all of his marks.

There were jokes, such as the one he told of pulling out his House of Representatives voting card at dinner … but it was rejected because it was $19 trillion over the limit.

And a Whitman’s Sampler of familiar memes, from riffs about the email scandals of Clinton and Lois Lerner to dire warnings about Islamic Jihad and “Iran running roughshod over the Middle East.”

As well, his message about the importance of veterans was well-honed.

“The best monuments the country has to offer,” said DeSantis, are in the Arlington Cemetery, “a lot of small, white headstones.”

DeSantis and Lopez-Cantera were the only two senate candidates on hand.

GOP Senate candidates square off at South Florida forum

Several Republican U.S. Senate candidates squared off Thursday night in South Florida in hopes of catching fire in a nationally watched race in which none has risen above the pack.

Each talked more about his experience rather than attacking the others. Yet they did share the same wish — seeing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, along with whoever wins the Democratic Senate nomination, defeated come November.

The forum had been billed as the first to feature all five major Senate GOP candidates on the same stage, but developer Carlos Beruff backed out earlier in the day because of a scheduling conflict. All are battling for the seat being vacated by outgoing Sen. Marco Rubio.

That left Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, businessman Todd Wilcox and Congressmen David Jolly and Ron DeSantis to make their cases before a large crowd inside a Marriott hotel ballroom in Boca Raton.

Lopez-Cantera described himself as a “Florida Republican and not a Washington, D.C., Republican” because he and Gov. Rick Scott have teamed up to cut taxes, brought millions of jobs to the state and paid down the state debt.

“When we say we are going to do something, we deliver,” Lopez-Cantera said. “It’s not about red-meat rhetoric; it’s about results.”

DeSantis, who has declined his congressional pension, criticized the culture of “crony capitalism” in Washington and pledged to push for term limits for those serving in Congress.

He promised to repeal President Barack Obama‘s health care law and rid the economy of government regulations and bureaucratic red tape. “Our own government is shooting our economy in the foot,” he said.

Wilcox pitched himself as an outsider who said Washington has too many career politicians and that he would bring his “real world experience” as a former Green Beret, CIA officer, and businessman to the Senate.

“I’m the only one with real-world experience,” he said. “I’m running out of frustration, not aspiration.”

He said Washington needs a return to “citizen government” and needs to kick out career politicians by imposing term limits and banning lawmakers for life from becoming lobbyists.

Jolly, a fifth-generation Floridian and son of a preacher, spoke of his experience in Congress as a plus, saying Senate candidates must have “a vision for governing — not for rhetoric.”

Elected in a special election in 2014, Jolly spoke of his achievements in Congress to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, the federal flood insurance program and Congress. “This is a job interview, so let’s get someone” who can do the job, he said.

Jolly gained national attention recently when he was featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes” promoting the “Stop Act,” a bill he’s championing that would prohibit members of Congress from directly soliciting campaign contributions.

The GOP primary is Aug. 30, but the race remains wide open with no clear frontrunner. In the Democratic contest, the two major contenders are Congressmen Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. A Quinnipiac University poll released last month found that at least one in five likely voters was undecided about the Senate contenders.

The race is a worrisome one for the national Republican Party because a loss could mean losing control of the Senate.

So concerned was the GOP last week that Senate Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, asked Sen. Rubio to reconsider running for re-election. Even presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump chimed in last week when he tweeted “Run Marco!”

Rubio chose not to run last year after embarking on his unsuccessful presidential run. He suspended his campaign March 15, the same night he lost the Florida primary to Trump.

Thursday night’s forum was organized by America First, led by Margi Helschien, a political consultant and former vice chairwoman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party.

Joe Henderson: Florida Republicans just can’t let go of Marco Rubio

When it comes to Marco Rubio, Florida Republican Party leaders are starting to sound like a jilted lover that can’t quite let it go.

They ignore that Rubio was beaten soundly by Donald Trump in 65 of the state’s 66 counties in the Florida Primary, causing him to drop out of the presidential race. They ignore that he has repeatedly trashed his job as a senator in both word and deed.

They ignore a recent Quinnipiac poll that showed 49 percent of Floridians disapprove of his performance while only 42 percent approve. They’re willing to look past his stumbles on the presidential campaign trail, especially the way Chris Christie made him look foolish and ill-prepared during the New Hampshire primary.

None of this seems to matter.

They are practically crawling to Rubio, all but begging him to change his mind and run for re-election to his seat in the U.S. Senate after he repeatedly said he wouldn’t. Given his serious and considerable baggage, the fact that they see Rubio as their champion says a lot about what they think of their chances to keep that seat in the GOP column.

And while Rubio’s words say “no, no, no” his actions say, “um, maybe … if you ask me real nice.”

For instance, he told CNN he might consider changing his mind if his good friend Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera wasn’t in the race.

“I think he’s put in time and energy to it and he deserves the chance to see where he can take it,” Rubio said.

Of course, friendship didn’t stand in the way of running against Jeb Bush for president. That friendship was strained, too; after he dropped out, Bush refused to endorse Rubio, even after pushing for him to be the vice president for Mitt Romney in 2012.

And while he was still in the campaign, Bush told The Washington Post, “Let me ask you, what has (Rubio) accomplished? What has he done in his life that makes you think he can make the tough calls, develop strategy?”

Good question.

What has Rubio accomplished, other than express disdain for the job he was elected to do? He has name recognition, sure, but as the Quinnipiac poll shows that can cut both ways.

None of that apparently matters to Republicans casting a longing eye in Rubio’s direction. Maybe it should.


Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

Carlos Beruff’s plan to reform Washington includes term limits, lobbying bans

Carlos Beruff has a plan to reform Washington.

On Wednesday, Beruff released a 10-point proposal he says will “end government greed.” The proposal includes instituting a lifetime ban on federal lawmakers from becoming lobbyists; tying congressional pay to the percentage of votes cast or missed; and repealing automatic pay raises for members of Congress.

“Our representatives don’t represent us anymore. Politics has become an industry and our elected officials have become career politicians instead of public servants,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “The result is a government that’s too big, too corrupt and too greedy. We need to change the culture in Washington. We need leaders who are citizen legislators and who believe in public service above all else.”

One way to reform the system, Beruff said, is by enacting term limits. In his proposal, Beruff said he believes term limits — 12 years for a member of the Senate and 8 years for a member of the House — should be in place for members of Congress.

“Our presidents are limited to two terms, and 36 states have term limits on their governors, including Florida,” states his plan. “It is crazy not to hold Congress to the same standard.”

Another part of the proposal would be to institute a policy where members of Congress, the president and the cabinet are not paid if they cannot “produce and enact a budget.”

“If Congress fails to meet the deadlines needed, its pay and travel allowances should be immediately revoked,” states the plan. “Likewise, if the president does not submit a budget by the deadline in the law, as President Obama has refused to do for seven years, then the president and members of the executive branch should have their pay withheld, and their travel allowances withheld.”

Also proposed: Reducing the federal government’s civilian workforce by 20 percent; requiring a supermajority to pass tax increases; passing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and ending the practice of “catch-all’ spending bills.

“Some of these reforms may be controversial and you can bet that the political class in Washington will say that they’re extreme or unrealistic,” said Beruff in a statement. “But the people of Florida know that we need bold ideas and real change in Washington, not more of the same. Put simply, we need to bring accountability to government. These 10 steps will do that.”

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


Palm Beach Atlantic University to host GOP Senate debate

Get ready for a Republican Senate debate.

On Wednesday, Palm Beach Atlantic University announced it planned to host a televised GOP debate on Aug. 23. The debate — which is being organized by the LeMieux Center for Public Policy and the Palm Beach County Young Republicans — comes just one week before the primary.

“The importance of this debate is to give Floridians an opportunity to get to know the candidates and where they stand on the issues, and what better place than right here at Palm Beach Atlantic University, where leadership and service are the core of its mission,” said former Sen. George LeMieux in a statement.

The debate will be held at the Rubin Arena at the Greene Complex for Sports and Recreation at Palm Beach Atlantic University. WPEC-CBS 12 will televise the debate, as well as other broadcasters across the state.

“We are proud to bring this debate to viewers across the state, on-air and online, so voters can make an informed decision in the primary,” said Michael Pumo, the general manager of WPEC.

Five Republicans — Ron DeSantis, David Jolly, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox — are vying to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesman for the Beruff campaign said it was reviewing invites as they come in, but hasn’t “committed to that event as of yet.” Spokesmen for Jolly and Wilcox said both men plan to attend the debate.

In a statement, a spokesman for DeSantis said the campaign has not “confirmed participation in any debates yet,” but the campaign looks “forward to Floridians learning about Ron DeSantis’s proven conservative record.”

All five candidates are expected to appear together at a forum in Boca Raton on Thursday.

Mary Ann Mancuso, the president of Palm Beach County Young Republicans, said the partnership with her organization and the LeMieux Center for Public Policy recognizes “the importance millennials will play in this upcoming election cycle.”

“This race is an important one for our state as we continue work toward our shared vision for a better tomorrow,” she said in a statement.

The race to replace Rubio is one of the most closely watched Senate races this election cycle. While some Senate Republicans have urged Rubio to run for re-election, Rubio has repeatedly said he will not run for re-election.

But according to a statewide survey by Associated Industries of Florida, Rubio was the best bet for Republicans in the U.S. Senate race. In a hypothetical matchup between Rubio and Democrat Patrick Murphy, Rubio would receive 49 percent to Murphy’s 41 percent.

That same survey found Murphy defeated all of the current Republican candidates in hypothetical head-to-head matchups.

Murphy faces Alan Grayson in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera super PAC highlights Marco Rubio’s support

The fundraising committee backing U.S. Senate hopeful Carlos Lopez-Cantera is assuring his supporters the lieutenant governor has the backing of Marco Rubio.

In an email to supporters Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Reform Washington, the super PAC backing Lopez-Cantera, said Rubio “put the rampant rumors that he was reconsidering running for his Senate seat to rest.”

The email then pointed to several recent articles, including a story by Heatstreet contributor Sarah Rumpf, that said Rubio was making fundraising calls for Lopez-Cantera. According to the Heatstreet report, “Rubio was on a phone call with major donors Friday morning to urge them to support” Lopez-Cantera.

According to the report, both Rubio and Lopez-Cantera were on the call.

On Thursday, Marc Caputo with POLITICO said Rubio told reporters earlier in the day that Republicans “need to make sure we get behind the right candidate in the primary to win. I think Carlos Lopez-Cantera is a very good candidate.”

The memo to supporters also points out Rubio hosted a fundraiser for Lopez-Cantera earlier this month.

Federal campaign reports show Reform Washington has raised more than $1 million since January 2015. Lopez-Cantera, reports show, has raised $1.03 million since July 2015.

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

According to a statewide survey by Associated Industries of Florida, Rubio remains the best bet for Republicans in the U.S. Senate race. In a hypothetical match-up between Rubio and Democrat Patrick Murphy, Rubio would receive 49 percent to Murphy’s 41 percent.

The same survey found Murphy would defeat Lopez-Cantera 42 to 31 percent in a head-to-head matchup. Murphy, who many believe will get the Democratic nomination, came out on top in all of the hypothetical matchups in the Associated Industries’ survey.

Internal poll shows Carlos Beruff slightly ahead

Carlos Beruff may have a slight edge over his Republican opponents, but the race for U.S. Senate still appears to be flying largely under the radar.

According to internal polling being circulated by the Beruff campaign, the Manatee County Republican is at 17 percent support. He is virtually tied with Rep. David Jolly, who garnered 16 percent in the survey.

Rep. Ron DeSantis followed the two men with 9 percent; Todd Wilcox with 5 percent; and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera with 3 percent. The poll showed 50 percent of the 800 likely Republican primary voters surveyed did not indicate a preference.

In a memo to supporters, Beruff’s campaign said the poll showed Beruff is “gaining traction and is now leading the five-way race.” It goes on to say “primary voters are demanding new leaders from outside the political ranks.”

According to the survey, 91 percent of respondents agreed that it was time to “send new leaders to Washington who are not part of the political establishment.”

The poll also found 78 percent of respondents saying they were more likely to vote for Beruff because he supports temporarily banning immigration from Middle Eastern countries “until the federal government adopts thorough policies to screen out potential terrorists.”

The poll surveyed 800 likely GOP voters and was conducted by telephone from March 23 through 25. It has a margin of error of 3.46 percent.

The Republican primary is Aug. 30.


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