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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.

 

Carlos Beruff checks 67 counties off his list

Carlos Beruff can check all 67 counties off his to-visit list.

The U.S. Senate hopeful said Tuesday he would wrap up a tour of all 67 Florida counties. The Manatee County businessman had said he planned to visit all of the state’s counties before the Aug. 30 primary.

“It is important to visit with people from all across this great state, many of whom feel ignored by our elected officials,” he said in a statement. “That’s why I committed to visiting all 67 Florida counties in the first three months of my campaign and why I’ve committed to visiting all 67 counties every year as your U.S. Senator.”

Beruff was scheduled to be in North Florida and Sarasota on Tuesday. He is one of five Republicans vying to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

He faces Republicans Ron DeSantis, David Jolly, Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Todd Wilcox in the August Republican primary.

“Voters all across this state are fed up with the status quo in Washington, and I’m committed to bringing real change to the U.S. Senate,” said Beruff.

 

Carlos Beruff campaign says he will stay in U.S. Senate race ‘no matter what’

Marco Rubio might be getting pressure to run for re-election, but that doesn’t seem to bother some U.S. Senate hopefuls.

Five Republicans — Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Carlos Beruff, and Todd Wilcox — are battling it out to replace Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

Rubio, who unsuccessfully ran for president this year, has said he plans to go into the private sector when his term ends. However, he’s been getting pressure to run for re-election from Republicans who are worried about losing the seat. According to CNN, Rubio responded “maybe” when asked if he would consider running if Lopez-Cantera, his close friend, wasn’t running.

“Look, I have a real good friend I’ve known for a long time who I was running for the Senate with; I didn’t run. I said I wasn’t going to. He got into the race,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I think he’s put in time and energy to it, and he deserves the chance to see where he can take it.”

Courtney Alexander, a spokeswoman for Lopez-Cantera’s campaign, said the lieutenant governor is focused on winning the seat.

“It looks like the press needs a narrative going into Memorial Day Weekend,” she said in a statement. “Carlos Lopez-Cantera is focused on winning this Senate seat, and Sen. Rubio has been supportive of Lopez-Cantera’s candidacy. I’ll let that speak for itself.”

Talk about the possibility of Rubio entering the race doesn’t seem to faze a few Senate candidates.

“We’re not concerned with D.C. chatter,” said Brad Herold, DeSantis’ campaign manager. “We’re focused on continuing to run the strongest campaign of any candidate in Florida.”

Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Beruff, said Beruff “is staying in this race no matter what.”

“Marco Rubio made the right decision in 2010 when he refused to get pushed out of the race by the power brokers in Washington,” he said in a statement. “As usual, Washington Republicans think they can control the race, but the voters of Florida will decide who our nominee is, and we feel confident about where we are.”

And Wilcox isn’t budging either.

“As a conservative, I have no intention of leaving this race just because another career politician gets in, especially one who fought for amnesty for illegals and oversaw tax increases as a city commissioner,” he said in a statement.

On Friday, Alex Leary with the Tampa Bay Times reported Jolly said he would withdraw from the race if Rubio gets in.

“I would withdraw from the Senate race and support Rubio for re-election,” said Jolly in a statement Friday afternoon.

Republicans aren’t the only ones weighing in on the Rubio speculation. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who faces Rep. Alan Grayson in the Democratic primary, said no matter what Rubio decides the race will be “about the people of Florida.”

“No matter what Marco Rubio decides, this race won’t be about him — it will be about the people of Florida, and that’s why I’m sure we will win in November. For years Floridians have been disappointed by Marco Rubio’s complete disinterest in the job they elected him to do,” he said in a statement. “Floridians know his record of missing votes, flip-flopping on immigration reform, and fighting against women’s health care. The voters are ready for a Senator who will wake up every day focused on fighting for them.”

Donald Trump urges Marco Rubio to re-enter race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat

Donald Trump is pushing for Marco Rubio to re-enter the U.S. Senate seat he is scheduled to depart in January.

In a tweet sent Thursday evening, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee called on his former bitter rival to get back into the contest.

Trump’s statement is just the latest indication of how concerned Republicans are that they are increasingly concerned about the fate of the 2016 senate race, where no Republican has broken out of the pact despite months of campaigning.

Democrats (including President Obama and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid) have put all their chips behind Jupiter Representative Patrick Murphy in his primary against Orlando area Congressman Alan Grayson. But Murphy has been suffering from a surfeit of negative news coverage over the past few weeks, yet none of the Republicans appear as of yet to be poised to take advantage of his vulnerabilities.

Top GOP senators on Capitol Hill aren’t being very subtle in calling on Rubio to get back into the race.

“Marco Rubio is a very valuable member of the Senate … and earlier this afternoon, I strongly encouraged him to reconsider his decision and seek re-election,” Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said Thursday.

And CNN quoted Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker,  chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, as saying that the prospect of Rubio running for re-election is “certainly within the realm of possibility.”

“It is a very real development,” Wicker added.
Rubio again repeated on Thursday that it is “unlikely” that he’ll get back into the contest, which has led some to speculate that such a statement gives him some wiggle room to get back into the contest. But that would seem unlikely with his all but official endorsement of his friend and political ally, Florida Lieutenant Carlos Lopez-Cantera.
Rubio announced his candidacy for president 15 months ago in Miami. He said at that time that he would not run for reelection. That was different than Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who like Rubio was elected in the Tea Party surge of 2010. He has steadfastly maintained that he would not get back into the contest. Paul is running for reelection to maintain his seat this year.
In addition to Lopez-Cantera, the other GOP candidates include congressmen David Jolly and Ron DeSantis, former military veteran and defense contractor Todd Wilcox, and private developer Carlos Beruff.
The bitter fissure between the Rubio and Trump appears to be ending, as the party begins to embrace their new and unlikely standard bearer.
On Thursday, Rubio said in a CNN interview with Jake Tapper that, if asked, he would speak on Trump’s behalf at the Republican National Convention in July. “Certainly, yeah. I want to be helpful,” Rubio told Tapper.
Rubio  still has time – the deadline to enter the contest is June 24.

Republican Senate hopefuls call on Barack Obama to fire VA Secretary

Two Republican Senate hopefuls are calling on President Barack Obama to fire the head of Veterans Affairs.

On Monday, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said the VA shouldn’t use wait times as a measure of success, comparing the wait times for health care to the house people wait for rides at Disney theme parks. McDonald said a veterans’ health-care experience was more important than the time spent waiting for an appointment.

His comments immediately came under fire, with House Speaker Paul Ryan calling the comments “disgusting and beyond the pale.” Ryan, according to the Associated Press, stopped short of calling for him to step down.

On Tuesday, Republicans Carlos Beruff and Carlos Lopez-Cantera called on the president to fire McDonald. In a statement, Beruff said McDonald’s comments “are proof he’s not the right man to get the VA back on track.”

“VA Secretary McDonald’s comments demonstrate ignorance and are proof he’s not the right man to get the VA back on track. In the real world, if things aren’t going well, new leadership is brought in to chart a new course,” said Beruff in a statement. “But in government, we often have a complete lack of accountability. It is long past time for accountability at the VA. Our veterans deserve leaders in Washington who will eliminate the bureaucratic inefficiencies and waste. President Obama should fire McDonald today.”

Lopez-Cantera said McDonald has “”grossly failed to hold himself or his agency accountable to our nation’s heroes.”

“With continued reports of manipulated wait times at the VA, Secretary Robert McDonald’s comments were not only uncalled for, they were indicative of an appallingly dismissive culture within the highest levels of the VA,” said Lopez-Cantera in a statement. “Waiting for care at the VA is certainly not the same thing as waiting in line at Disney, and the Secretary should be ashamed of his nonchalance. Veterans have died waiting for care, yet Mr. McDonald and the rest of his leadership team have failed to take care of those who cared enough to risk their lives to protect our freedoms.”

Beruff and Lopez-Cantera are among the five Republicans running to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. They’ll face Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, and Todd Wilcox in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Jeff Atwater has no regrets about not entering run for U.S. Senate

It was 13 months ago when Jeff Atwater stunned the Florida political world by announcing he would not run for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

A Quinnipiac Poll taken just a week earlier showed him leading the two major Democratic candidates in the race, Congressmen Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy, and he was considered to have by far the best name recognition of any Florida Republican considering entering the contest. His decision unfroze the field, with David Jolly, Ron DeSantis, Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Todd Wilcox all filing to declare their candidacies in the months that followed (joined by Carlos Beruff earlier this year). Though at one point last fall Atwater talked about the “possibility” of getting back into the race, he never did. Now Florida’s Chief Financial Officer says he’s content not making the move for Washington was the right move.

“No, no, no. The timing just wasn’t right for us,” Atwater said after speaking to the St. Petersburg Republican Club at Parkshore Grill on Beach Drive on Monday afternoon. He said he made the decision roughly around three months after being inaugurated for another four-year term as the state’s CFO, and wasn’t prepared to engage in another year-and-half of campaigning in an attempt to succeed Marco Rubio in Washington.

“We’re loving what we’re doing,” he said about his current state of affairs, adding that he wished all five of the GOP senate candidates well. “They’re hustling,” he said. “It’s been far to get out of the shadow of the presidential conversation, but they’re hustling, and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.”

Atwater said for now he’s staying neutral in the race, but will back whomever survives the Aug. 30 primary.

Earlier, the CFO presented a glowing report card on the state of Florida’s economy to the 30 or so people in the attendance, and he particularly seemed to relish comparing the state’s financial  health with the economies of the nation’s four other largest sized states — California, New York, Texas and Illinois.

Atwater referenced a George Mason University study that listed Florida as having the fifth-best economy in the country. Actually, last fall the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index rated Florida the fourth most financially sound state in the nation, trailing only behind Wyoming, South Dakota and Alaska. He then went into some details about the where the state was financially in 2004 — when top-line revenues were $27 billion and the average home price was $258,000, and how upside down they were in 2009, at the apex of the Great Recession, when the top-line had been reduced to $21 billion with 500,000 homes in foreclosure and the average priced home had slumped to a miserable $121,000.

He said the state was at a financial crossroads about how to fill that $6 billion funding gap, and said if it had been up to editorial writers throughout the state, that gap would have been patched up by raising taxes.“Instead the answer was, we’ll reduce our run rate of spending to match the run rate of revenue,” he said. “We will not pull revenue up. “

Unlike some other high-ranking state officials, Atwater intentionally avoids saying that the state has created conditions that allowed the economy to recover better here than in other parts of the country. Instead he continuously emphasized to the audience that it was “you” who had done the work to keep business conditions positive.

“Every time the government can trust the marketplace to bring us back, it does,” he said.

He now says top-line revenues are at $28 billion, the median price of a home is $209,000, adding that “you’ve created more jobs in the country the last three years.”

His only notes of discord in an otherwise sunny trip thorough recent history was when he discussed the federal debt and deficit.

“There’s just not that much time,” he fretted. “I’m not saying that the country is going to disappear, it’s just going to be a far different place to the extent that my children’s income will have to be extorted, to be able to cover the cost of what’s being built,” adding that he also feared that the younger generation won’t ever have the opportunities that he had growing up. He said that should motivate the fellow Republicans in the room regarding this fall’s election.

Bernie Sanders ‘prebutted’ by Ron DeSantis in open letter

In an open letter, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ron DeSantis red-baits “socialist” presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday, laying in shots at Alan Grayson along the way.

“I understand you have endorsed the Democratic primary challenger to Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Tim Canova. I assume this is a prelude to your endorsement of Alan Grayson in the U.S. Senate race in Florida,” DeSantis writes.

“In an email from your campaign to your supporters promoting the Canova endorsement, you cited the fact that he has endorsed your campaign for President, the fact that the incumbent (Wasserman Schultz) represents the Democratic establishment, and that Canova is a full-fledged supporter of your ‘progressive’ policy agenda,” DeSantis continues, adding that “an endorsement of Alan Grayson cannot be far off.”

DeSantis notes that “Grayson endorsed your campaign for President” while “Congressman Patrick Murphy endorsed Hillary Clinton,” before finding a way to slam both of the major Democrats vying for the Senate nod.

“Big money donors, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid are backing Congressman Patrick Murphy. His wealthy father has poured hundreds of thousands into a ‘Super-PAC’ to support his candidacy — just the type of big money politics you routinely rail against on the campaign trail,” while “Alan Grayson is exceptionally liberal and endorsed by the Progressive Democrats of America.”

“At this point,” DeSantis adds, “it is practically the textbook definition of a ‘no-brainer’ that your ‘people-powered’ campaign will get behind the so-called ‘Congressman with Guts’ in Florida’s Democratic Senate primary.”

The DeSantis letter serves several purposes. It hits Grayson and Murphy, while also dinging the Clinton and Sanders wings of the party, by way of winning the news cycle for Monday.

Senate Majority PAC slated to spend $10.5M in Florida this fall

A super PAC aimed at helping Democratic U.S. Senate candidates is prepared to spend more than $10 million in Florida this fall.

The Senate Majority PAC, a political committee aimed at helping take back the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, said it is poised to spend $10.5 million on cable and broadcast advertisements in Florida starting in September.

“Republicans are going to nominate a far-right, Tea Party candidate who is out of touch with Florida’s middle class,” said Shripal Shah, Senate Majority PAC’s director of communications. “We’re going to be ready to hold their eventual nominee accountable.”

Rep. Patrick Murphy and Rep. Alan Grayson are battling it out for their party’s nomination to replace Republican Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.

Many Democrats have lined up behind Murphy, who many in the party believe has the best shot of winning in the fall. It’s unclear if Senate Majority PAC will still spend in the state if Grayson is the nominee.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Carlos Beruff, and Todd Wilcox are running for the Republican nomination. The primary is Aug. 30.

The group is also expected to spend $7.5 million in Nevada, $8.5 million in New Hampshire, and $9.5 million in Ohio this fall.

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