Rusty Roberts, a one-time Chief of Staff for former Rep. John Mica, has filed Congress.
The Longwood Republican will likely announce next week he’s running in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, Florida Politics has learned. He already opened a campaign account with the Federal Election Commission and filed a statement of candidacy on March 3.
Roberts told FP he has been contemplating a run and testing the waters. He said he understands many in the region remain unhappy with the slate of filed candidates in CD 7 now, and he feels there’s an audience who would welcome his candidacy.
“After assessing support and talking to people, I know they want someone who can get positive things done in Washington,” Roberts said. “They are fed up with soaring prices at the pump and grocery store. They want someone who can hit the ground running to make America energy independent and stop out of control federal spending that’s helped skyrocket inflation and driven America deeper into debt.”
Other Republicans in the running include state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, Defense consultant Cory Mills, former Navy SEAL and Christian ministry advisor Brady Duke, interior designer Erika Benfield and others.
Roberts noted that CD 7, as proposed on the primary map approved by the Florida Legislature (H 8019), comprises much of Mica’s old district.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has promised to veto the map, so its future is uncertain. Right now, it stretches from the University of Central Florida in the Orlando area to include all of Seminole County and much of Volusia to the Atlantic coast, including New Smyrna Beach and Edgewater.
Performance analysis by MCI Maps shows this is a swing district where 49.9% of voters picked Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election and 49.72% picked Democrat Joe Biden. In a midterm election where Republicans expect to pick up seats, this could be one of the prime targets for the GOP to flip.
Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat, announced in December she would not seek another term in Congress. Murphy was elected in 2016, defeating Mica after courts redrew a previously Republican-leaning district into a swing seat.
Roberts hopes voters pine for more conservative leadership as Democratic-controlled Washington expands spending this year.
“I worked with Republicans as we balanced the budget after gaining the majority in the ’90s. I know we can do that again,” he said.
“People that I’ve talked with want to stop paying able-bodied (people) not to work and get crime under control — beginning with halting catch and release for repeat criminals — and get our borders under control. These hard-working citizens, my neighbors, need effective representation in Congress now more than ever. That’s why next week, I plan to announce my intention to make a positive difference in their lives.”
A former Brightline Trains vice president, Roberts serves on the Florida Transportation Commission, where DeSantis appointed him.
Roberts has a long history on Capitol Hill. In addition to working for Mica, he served as chief of staff to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, and was a top aide to former Sen. Paula Hawkins, who was elected in 1980 and served a single term.