In any other election cycle we’d have been inundated by now with non-stop stories about the candidates who want to succeed Sen. Marco Rubio. But Trump, Clinton and Sanders are using up all the oxygen in the Florida room. It’s time to pump some back in for the U.S. Senate race.
There’s no lack of candidates. Two Democrats and five Republicans are vying for our attention and votes in the Aug. 30 primary. So far, however, they haven’t been able to stir more than a few ripples on the news pond.
Rep. David Jolly did get a good media ride from his appearance on 60 Minutes as sponsor and champion of the Stop Act, which would prohibit members of Congress from directly soliciting campaign contributions. It’s an excellent idea to be sure, but Jolly’s bill is going nowhere. Moreover, as a top congressional staffer to the late Rep. Bill Young and then as a lobbyist before getting elected, Jolly himself solicited and contributed many thousands of dollars.. There is a slight whiff of sanctimony in the air.
GOP candidate Carlos Beruff of Bradenton has also gotten media attention — for all the wrong reasons. He lacks a filter and tends to pop off. Beruff recently called President Obama an “animal,” who has “destroyed this country.” Beruff doubled down the next day by saying he had said nothing to apologize for. He explained, in his own way, that he’s Hispanic and that it’s common to call someone an “animal” when they act stupid. “It’s totally common,” he said, “and when my blood pressure goes up my Spanish stuff kicks in.”
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Oh, say no more, señor, sound off at will. Beruff, who’s of Cuban heritage, also says Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, a judicial moderate, shouldn’t be confirmed because he’s nothing more than an “Obama puppet.”
Beruff’s remarks brought a rebuke from GOP candidate Todd Wilcox who says personal insults have no place in the Senate race. He chided Beruff for “childish antics.”
I spent some time with Wilcox, who’s from Orlando, as he made a campaign swing through South Florida and came away impressed by his focus, intellect and leadership abilities. The guy’s got command presence, literally and metaphorically.
He led men in combat as an Army officer In Iraq and it shows. Wilcox was a rifle platoon leader in Desert Storm, transferred to Special Forces where he earned a Green Beret, led a counter-terrorism team in East Asia, then joined the CIA as a paramilitary case office. Fluent in Arabic, he ended his military career in 2006 attached to the Joint Terrorism Task Force with the FBI in Orlando. The guy’s got street cred.
Business cred, too. Wilcox started his own company providing specialized military and private investigative services to the military and private sector. He now runs several companies that, among other things, send food, mail and fuel to dicey places like Libya and Afghanistan. His business acumen has made Wilcox, 49, a millionaire many times over.
Now he wants to apply his “real world experience” to Congress. “I’m fed up with career politicians,” Wilcox says. “All of the problems we face as a nation are symptoms; the disease is career politicians.” He would term limit them, force the ones in office to prove they’ve read the bills they vote on and prohibit members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists. Strong medicine, but Wilcox says our republic will wither without it. He is extremely conservative, but not inflexible. For example, he thinks global warming is real. He’s not anti-government, just against government run by career politicians..
Three career politicians are also running for the GOP Senate nomination — Reps. Ron DeSantis and the aforementioned David Jolly. Then there’s the shoot-from-the-hip Beruff and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami.
Lopez-Cantera was an outstanding state lawmaker and also did well, if briefly, as the Miami-Dade property appraiser. He signed on as Gov. Scott’s lieutenant governor two years ago and has pretty much adopted Scott’s jobs-above-everything agenda. Lopez-Cantera is relying on his Miami-Dade roots to make it into a run-off in a crowded GOP field.
He’s also a political insider trying to play the outsider game. Lopez-Cantera released a disconcerting web TV ad last week that begins with him saying into the camera, “I think anyone who serves in public office should have a little bit of contempt for government in their heart.” Contempt for government from someone who wants to serve in the U.S. Senate? Wow, talk about cognitive dissonance.
We’ll get to the two Democrats in the Senate race — Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy — in the future. As for the five Republicans, voters really need to see them standing side by side in a freewheeling, no-holds barred debate. I doubt that will happen, but if it did I’d bet Todd Wilcox would be the last man standing.