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David Jolly drops Senate bid, will seek re-election to CD 13; Charlie Crist, Dems respond

 U.S. Rep. David Jolly has unfinished business.

After weeks of pressure from local officials, bolstered by rumors of Marco Rubio seeking re-election, Jolly is dropping his bid for the U.S. Senate, opting instead for a re-election bid in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

“David Jolly’s passion is to serve the people of Pinellas,” former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker confirmed in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “He learned at the side of Congressman Bill Young, and he has effectively served all parts of our county.

“I strongly endorse his candidacy and his re-election.”

With the possibility of Rubio entering the race, the prospects for Jolly — a Harbor Bluffs Republican — in the crowded Senate GOP primary had worsened somewhat. The decision to run for re-election indicates his feeling that there is a better chance against former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running as a Democrat for the Pinellas County-based seat.

“Unlike what my new opponent did when I announced,” Crist said in a statement.  “I’m not going to start name calling like [Republican presidential front-runner] Donald Trump – everyone should do what’s in their heart. Pinellas needs less Donald Trump and more civility to tackle issues like the rising cost of health care, gun violence, failing schools, and protecting our environment –  that’s why I’m running, for the people.”

As for Jolly’s Senate aspirations, the challenge for him and the other GOP Senate candidates in Florida was Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader who has openly backed Rubio entering the race.

McConnell, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other leaders, lobbied for Rubio to run for re-election.

According to Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida, McConnell’s move chilled many donors by casting doubts on the viability of the five Republicans already in the Senate race. June was expected to be a strong fundraising month for all the candidates.

Jolly entered the Senate race last year after Rubio, the incumbent, launched his bid for president. However, after exiting the race earlier this year, Rubio told reporters last week he would consider a return to the Senate in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando, which gave him the inspiration on how he could best serve the nation.

If Rubio decides to run, he must do it by June 24, the filing deadline to qualify for the ballot.

As for the remaining Republican field, both Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis also stated they would not run against Rubio if he seeks re-election.

Manatee County homebuilder Carlos Beruff and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox — two outsider candidates who have officially filed to run — have maintained that they will continue their campaigns, despite Rubio.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s Sadie Weiner blasted Jolly’s decision to run for his old House seat as the result of “lackluster support” for his “ill-prepared” Senate campaign.

“David Jolly wanted any excuse to end his Senate campaign that was defined by lackluster support and pathetic attempts to scrub his lobbying career from his public biography,” Weiner said in a statement. “He was ill-prepared to run a statewide race, let alone represent Florida in the U.S. Senate.  We wish the NRCC the best of luck with their former lobbyist candidate who they accused of lying after he brought a secret camera crew into their office.”

Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant argued that Jolly “abandoned” Pinellas County voters when he decided to run for the Senate, and only returned to the CD 13 race when he saw that no Republican could win statewide.

“One year after abandoning the job the people of Pinellas County elected him to do, David Jolly has changed his mind and is returning to run in the district he argued ‘no Republican can win,’” Tant said in a statement Friday. “Jolly’s lack of commitment and principle are exactly what Pinellas County residents would expect from a Washington lobbyist who is only interested in furthering his political career. Florida Democrats look forward to sending David Jolly back to K Street in November.”

In new ad, Carlos Beruff says ‘we are all simply Americans’

Carlos Beruff is out with a new campaign advertisement, calling on Floridians to reject what he calls a hyphenated county.

The release of the 30-second spot, called “Simply American,” comes as Marco Rubio prepares to announce whether he will run for re-election.

In his new ad, an announcer is heard saying: “Ever get tired of all these hyphens? Separating American with all these divisions. America is strongest when we are united.”

“We all owe America; it’s not the other way around. Some call me a Cuban-hyphen-American. I reject that. I don’t believe in hyphenated Americans,” Beruff is then heard saying. “We are all simply Americans. Let’s put America first. I’m Carlos Beruff. I approve this message, with no hyphen.”

Beruff is one of five Republicans currently running for the U.S. Senate. But political insiders widely expect to see a shift in the race in the coming days, as Rubio decides whether to run again.

Rep. David Jolly is set to hold a news conference this afternoon to announce his plans. Many expect him to drop out of the U.S. Senate race and run for re-election against Democrat Charlie Crist.

Rubio’s longtime friend Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has already said he would bow out if Rubio gets in. He even told supporters this week he encouraged Rubio to reconsider. Rep. Ron DeSantis may also be forced to consider his options if Rubio enters.

Rubio is expected to talk with his family over the weekend about whether he should run for re-election.

Beruff has said he would stay in the race even if Rubio gets in. So has Republican Todd Wilcox.

The qualifying deadline is noon on June 24.

Might Ron DeSantis run in Florida’s 4th Congressional District?

The GOP race in Florida’s 4th Congressional District right now is John Rutherford’s to lose.

The former Jacksonville sheriff has high name ID and endorsements throughout Duval County and beyond.

He has a great team working for him.

And, despite his penchant for voicing support at his own fundraising events for embattled State Attorney Angela Corey — a longtime political ally who is opposed in her re-election bid by many of his supporters, such as Peter Rummell — he has the clearest path to earned media, and every other meaningful metric.

The big story in Florida’s political scene right now boils down to four words: What will Marco do?

Will Rubio jump back into the Senate race to reclaim his seat?

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a very early Rutherford supporter, has been urging Rubio to do so, via interviews with FloridaPolitics.com and other outlets.

Curry likes and trusts Rubio, on a personal and a policy level.

If Rubio does jump into the Senate race, we can reasonably infer a lot of Republicans will jump out.

Rep. David Jolly and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera have already indicated they would step aside.

Here’s a third possibility: Rep. Ron DeSantis.

The Ponte Vedra congressman currently is at the northern edge of Congressional District 6.

But the new maps take him out of CD 6. And into CD 4.

DeSantis is a smart politician, with smart advisors who know two months would not be enough time to compete statewide with Rubio.

They have ideological, demographic, and other meaningful types of overlap.

And, it would be hard to make the case to replace Rubio, who has meaningful experience and credibility nationally, even with a good congressman.

It would be less hard to make the case to run for an open House seat in the Jacksonville Republican district.

DeSantis would instantly be in the frontrunner conversation: as of his Q1 fundraising report, he has $3.2 million of hard money.

How much soft money does he have? Unknown. But it’s easy to imagine the Club For Growth spending what is needed to help out.

DeSantis has the House experience. He has an increasing national profile. He has a telegenic wife who has been a fixture on Jacksonville TV screens for a decade. He can talk national security, and finds a way to craft the message to everyone from the gilded rooms of Capitol Hill to the hicks in the sticks.

Nothing is for certain, while we wait for Marco Rubio to announce his next move.

But if you’re Ron DeSantis, waiting your turn to run statewide, why not try to re-up in the House, taking advantage of a big media market in Jacksonville, a national profile, and credibility with Republicans?

There is an irony in this speculation.

Before the re-mapping, with DeSantis in the Senate race, Rutherford was looking at CD 6.

The question was one of logistics: would he have to move to do it?

The names were linked last year. And now, if dominoes fall a certain way, they would be linked again, in a clash of two high-profile Republicans — both unimpeachably conservative, yet presenting meaningful contrasts in age, demographic, and life experience.

DeSantis would provide a significant and electable alternative to the so-called “coronation” of Rutherford some in the Duval GOP grouse about.

If it’s Rutherford against DeSantis, this CD 4 primary battle becomes a race of national interest.

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.

 

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