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Todd Wilcox releases national security and foreign policy proposal

Todd Wilcox rolled out his national security and foreign policy plan on Wednesday, saying the country needs to “examine the context” of the current foreign policy and national security strategy.

In his proposal, Wilcox said the nation should “first and foremost defend the homeland” from threats of Islamic terrorism. The country, he said, also needs to shield itself from the potential of strategic ballistic missile threats by rogue nations. The United States, he said, needs a “comprehensive foreign policy approach to ensure stability and avoid the need to go to war.”

On Tuesday, Wilcox kicked off a three-day campaign tour focused on national security. The tour had been in the works before the shooting in Orlando, where 49 people were killed and 53 people were injured.

The plan touches on steps Wilcox thinks the country should take to eliminate ISIS, how to build up a strategic missile defense system, and military force structure and modernization.

“A robust national security posture is only one side of the coin and is unsustainable if we do not have a long-term, comprehensive foreign policy,” said Wilcox in his proposal. “Our foreign policy needs to emphasize stability and influence instead of the ideologically driven concept of spreading democracy through failed policies such as regime change.”

Wilcox, a combat veteran and former CIA operative, is one of five Republicans running to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. Wilcox faces Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Carlos Beruff in the Aug. 30 primary.

On Wednesday, the Orlando Republican formally filed the paperwork to run for the seat.

“Now more than ever, we need experienced voices in Washington to protect and defend the American people from growing threats around the world and here at home,” he said in a statement. “This President and this Congress are failing to protect us from an enemy who lacks basic human decency, and if we don’t take this fight to them, they will continue to slaughter innocent Americans.”

 

Mitch Perry Report for 6.15.16 — What will Marco do?

Is Marco Rubio ready to do the (almost) unthinkable, and announce he will be running again for the U.S. Senate seat he renounced a year ago?

We’ll find out soon enough — the deadline to make such a decision is just nine days away.

The man who runs this website, Peter Schorschwrote last night a deal is in the works where Rubio’s Miami-Dade County ally, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, would drop out and announce he’s running for CFO in 2018. Dealing with CLC is important, since Rubio has made such an issue of their friendship. Well, Lopez-Cantera has sounded pretty contemptuous of all things Washington during his campaign for Senate, so it wouldn’t be a radical thing for him to say it works better for him to keep his current day job until 2018.

David Jolly would also drop out, while outsider candidates Todd Wilcox and Carlos Beruff would no doubt stay in the race. Wilcox told us yesterday Rubio’s entry back into the race would only magnify the difference between a career politician like Rubio and himself. It’s uncertain what Ron DeSantis might do.

Whether this is a great move by Rubio will be for others to decide. Personally, I think it’s a good move if it’s to be believed that Rubio aspires to run again for president in 2020. It seems to me much better to still be in the game (in Washington) than coming from the private sector (a la Jeb Bush, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney).

Whether he can actually win in November is in dispute, but not that he would be the nominee.

That’d be a comeback, of sorts, if you consider how badly he was humiliated in the state’s March presidential primary, when he won all of one of Florida’s 67 counties.

In other news …

Tom Lee has finally made a decision regarding his political future in Hillsborough County.

Rick Baker has endorsed Rebecca Smith in the House District 60 contest.

Kevin Beckner raises more than $11K in his battle to dethrone Hillsborough Clerk of the Court Pat Frank.

Former Plant City Mayor John Dicks had the most robust month of fundraising in the Hillsborough County Commission District 6 contest last month, but he still trails two other Democrats in overall fundraising.

Boca Raton Democratic Representative Ted Deutsch says lifting the loophole that allows those on a terror watch list to still buy guns should be a priority in Congress in the wake of the Orlando massacre.

And the Tampa Bay business elite is calling on the Hillsborough County MPO to approve the TBX in its TIP next week.

 

CLC to CFO? Ron DeSantis to A.G.? It’s all in play if Marco Rubio runs for re-election

It’s the seemingly intractable problem of Florida politics these days, one that has eluded even the most savvy operators.

If Marco Rubio does jump back into the race for his U.S. Senate seat, how do you rearrange the chess pieces — at least the ones that matter — so everyone comes out a winner?

After weeks of saying he wouldn’t run for re-election, Rubio on Monday seemed to open the door to run again in 2016. When asked by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt if the shooting at an Orlando nightclub changed his decision, Rubio appeared to crack the door open to the possibility.

“I haven’t even given it a thought in that perspective other than to say that I’ve been deeply impacted by it, and I think when it visits your home state and impacts community you know well, it really gives you pause to think a little bit about … your service to our country and then where you can be most useful your country,” he said on the show. “We live in a very dramatic moment in our history.”

Rubio said he and his family were praying on the issue, and said they would be discussing how he could best serve. During the interview, Rubio also said a friend of his — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera — was running for the seat.

Subsequently, Lopez-Cantera has been under tremendous pressure to scoot aside for Rubio.

The deadline to qualify for the 2016 ballot is Friday, June 24th.

“It’s like when you have to tell your best friend that he should break up with an ugly girlfriend,” said one former elected official close to Lopez-Cantera who has helped raise money for the LG. “You have to do it gently. You don’t just tell him his girlfriend is horrible.”

Two other sources who have raised considerable money for both Rubio’s presidential bid and Lopez-Cantera’s U.S. Senate campaign and/or super PAC tell FloridaPolitics.com that were CLC to withdraw from the race in time for Rubio to qualify for re-election, there would be considerable support for Lopez-Cantera were he to run in 2018 for the statewide post of Chief Financial Officer.

With CLC taken care of, what about the other candidates who have been running under the premise Rubio would not seek re-election?

U.S. Rep. David Jolly has already said he would withdraw.It’s likely he would run for re-election to his U.S. House seat. He has already received encouragement from some Tampa Bay area Republicans, including Sen. Jack Latvala, to run for re-election. If he runs for re-election, Jolly would face Democrat Charlie Crist.

Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox are both on record saying they will stay in the race regardless of what Rubio does. In fact, as first reported by FloridaPolitics.com, Wilcox launched his first television ad Tuesday.

That leaves Ron DeSantis.

While some have speculated he would simply run again for his congressional seat, the rumor du jour is that if Rubio runs for re-election, he will drop out and run for Florida Attorney General in 2018.

As he should, DeSantis campaign manager Brad Herold denies this.

“We’re not concerned with Washington insider chatter,” said Herold. “We’re focused on continuing to build the strongest campaign of any candidate in Florida.”

Herold didn’t say this, but DeSantis isn’t stupid. He’d move out of the way for Rubio. And while he’ll probably take a look at running again for CD 6, our sources say DeSantis is more interested in statewide office.

As for the actual chances of Rubio running, many Republicans assume it’s a foregone conclusion.

Oh sure, there will be some hemming and hawing about Rubio having to get the OK from his wife, but the real hesitation Rubio has is whether he can win in this election cycle with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.

One Republican lobbyist, who has raised well into the six-figures for Rubio, says the senator has expressed to him “trepidation” against re-entering the race and losing because Trump motivates Democratic voters to turn out in waves.

“That’s what Marco is really hesitant about,” said the lobbyist.

 

Todd Wilcox talks about eliminating ISIS in first campaign advertisement

Todd Wilcox released his first campaign advertisement Tuesday. The 30-second web spot — called “Eliminating ISIS” — coincides with a statewide tour focused on national security.

“Terrorists have brought this fight to American soil and it’s time we get serious about eliminating ISIS once and for all,” he said in a statement. “ISIS can be defeated, but it’s going to require American leadership and a real strategy to win.”

In the advertisement, Wilcox is shown saying the nation should use “every pillar of American power to destroy ISIS.”

“ISIS can be defeated, but it requires American leadership and a real strategy to win,” he said in the spot.

Wilcox is one of five Republicans running for U.S. Senate seat currently held by Marco Rubio. Wilcox faces Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and Carlos Beruff in the Aug. 30 primary.

On Tuesday, he kicked off a three-day campaign swing to talk about national security. The campaign tour had been in the works for several weeks, but Wilcox, a combat veteran and former CIA case officer, said the events in Orlando bring the issue of national security into the forefront of discussions.

 

Todd Wilcox urges action to deal with ISIS

For Todd Wilcox, the Orlando shooting hit close to home.

He lives 15 miles south of the nightclub where 49 people were killed, and 53 more were injured early Sunday morning. His youngest daughter, now seven years old, was born at the hospital across the street. His oldest daughter, a 23-year-old recent graduate, lives near Lake Eola, where a vigil was held Sunday night to honor the victims.

“It was just gut wrenching to see what happened,” said Wilcox.

Wilcox is one of five Republicans running for U.S. Senate seat currently held by Marco Rubio. On Tuesday, he’ll kick off a three-day campaign swing to talk about national security. The campaign tour had been in the works for several weeks, but Wilcox said the events in Orlando bring the issue of national security into the forefront of discussions.

“Orlando represents the largest single terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11 and the single largest mass casualty shooting,” said Wilcox during a stop in Fort Myers on Monday. “Whether it’s inspired or directed, it really doesn’t matter. The root cause is ISIS.”

Wilcox, a combat veteran and former CIA case officer, said the shooting should act as a wake-up call that the “political leadership is failing in America.”

“We have to take this war to the enemy, and I really think we need to go after them,” he said. “We need to declare war on ISIS, and use every pillar of American power to destroy this enemy.”

Wilcox has already put forth several suggestions to combat ISIS. Following the November 2015 attacks in Paris, Wilcox outlined a plan to take action to eliminate ISIS. That proposal included leading a coalition of Middle Eastern countries to create a standing army of 200,000 conventional troops to “destroy and occupy ISIS-controlled territory” in Syria and Iraq. It also called on the United States to provide command and control, intel, and support for the coalition’s efforts.

Wilcox said the United States can use its cyber power to shut down ISIS’ “cancerous social media marketing machine,” and use the United States’ economic power to cut off revenue streams. But he also said allies in the Middle East need to step up and begin to “take back their religion.”

“The Arab world has got to wake up. There has to be a reformation in Islam. They need to take back their religion,” he said. “I’ve worked shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies in the Middle East in combat, and know there are a lot of people in the Middle East, Muslims, that want the same things for their kids that we want for our kids.”

Wilcox said the country did not need to ban Muslims — or people from countries with a terrorist connection — from entering the United States.

Wilcox said he thinks there was a notion that “people are feeding on the fear” that people have right now. He acknowledged it is a “legitimate fear,” but said banning Muslims from entering the United States “is not a feasible proposal.”

Wilcox faces Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and Carlos Beruff in the Aug. 30 Republican primary. He said he has spent the past several months traveling the state, and said his message is resonating with voters.

“I’m encouraged by the feedback I get when the message gets out there,” he said. “I’m running out of desperation and frustration, not aspiration.”

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.

 

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.

 

Carlos Beruff says Senate opponents have no foreign affairs experience, despite veterans in GOP race

Carlos Beruff believes his extensive travel overseas, talking to people and living Cuban history “every day” gives him sufficient experience in foreign affairs for the U.S. Senate.

The Manatee County homebuilder and first-time candidate also blasted his Republican opponents for lacking experience in foreign affairs, despite two military veterans also in the race to replace Marco Rubio.

In an interview last week with Pensacola News Radio 1620 AM, Beruff said that “none” of his opponents “have experience of any magnitude” in foreign affairs.

Beruff’s comment was an apparent knock on the two veterans in the race — Congressman Ron DeSantis, who served in the Navy, and former Special Forces commander and CIA veteran Todd Wilcox.

The exchange, available in an audio clip on YouTube, has the novice politician claiming to have foreign policy experience because he had the “opportunity to travel quite a bit” and “spent weeks there talking to people.”

According to the transcript, Beruff boasts that by way of visits to Egypt and Turkey, he has seen Middle East problems “with my own eyes.”

In the minute-long clip, Beruff is then quizzed about what a senator needs to address issues of foreign policy and affairs.

“How would you address the question that I’m sure you’re getting asked,” the interviewer asks. “Which is, ‘You don’t seem to have any experience in these matters?’”

Beruff responds: “Well, first of all, the people that are all in this race, none of them have experience of any magnitude in foreign affairs. I have lived foreign affairs in the sense that I grew up at a dining table living Cuban history every night. In addition to that, I have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit. And at the end of the day, I’d been to Israel. I understand, I’ve been to Egypt. I’ve been to Turkey. I understand some of the Middle East problems because I have been there and spent weeks there talking to people. So, I have some — I’m sort of old-fashioned. I have to go see it with my own eyes, so I can better understand the dynamics.”

“So I think I have an advantage that I bring. You know, a fresh approach to some of those things that others don’t.”

“Unfortunately for Carlos Beruff,” responded DeSantis Campaign Manager Brad Herold, “importing poisonous ‘Chinese drywall’ does not count as foreign policy experience, and it’s impossible to take Mr. Beruff seriously on the subject when he can’t even decide which country he was born in.

“Beruff is the last person who should be lecturing veterans who’ve served in the military about their experiences in the Middle East,” Herold added.

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.

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