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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.


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