Carlos Lopez-Cantera left little room for doubt Saturday night that he’s running for U.S. Senate in 2016.
Florida’s lieutenant governor told Miami-Dade County Republicans at their annual fundraising bash that he will announce his plans July 15.
“I believe Florida deserves a candidate who will work for Florida every single day and campaign for every Florida voter, no matter where they live, how they worship or what language they speak around the dinner table,” Lopez-Cantera said.
He spoke at the Miami-Dade GOP’s Lincoln Day dinner before Marco Rubio, the presidential candidate whom Lopez-Cantera would try to replace. The lieutenant governor used his time to outline the contours of his candidacy. He also said that his wife, Renee (a Miami Herald sales and marketing employee), has been encouraging him to consider a run — the clearest sign yet that Lopez-Cantera plans to jump in the race.
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“If I get in this race, I know that it will be a long road, and a hard road, but if we are on that road together, there is nothing can stand in our way,” Lopez-Cantera said.
By not becoming a candidate until July, Carlos Lopez-Cantera would avoid a June 30 campaign-finance reporting deadline. His first quarterly disclosure wouldn’t be due until October, giving Lopez-Cantera several more months to schmooze political donors and try to make a splash when his first numbers come out.
He would need to prove fundraising muscle. The only big-name Republican in the race so far, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, a tea-party favorite, has lined up formidable support from several conservative political action committees, including Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Senate Conservatives Fund. Another congressman, Jeff Miller of Chumuckla, is also likely to run.
Lopez-Cantera has been considering a bid since April. He made calls last month to activists and donors asking for their backing. They have been able to contribute to Reform Washington, a Tampa-based “Super PAC” created to support Lopez-Cantera. The Super PAC has invited donors to a fundraiser Thursday at the Coral Gables home of Lopez-Cantera’s father.
The lieutenant governor is also scheduled to speak Tuesday to the Leon County GOP in Tallahassee. He gave brief remarks Friday to the Hillsborough County GOP in Tampa — where the headliner was Rubio’s hometown rival, former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Lopez-Cantera’s supporters viewed the Miami-Dade GOP dinner as the perfect venue to create a campaign buzz. Rubio’s presence commanded national attention. And the fundraiser was sold-out for the first time in a quarter century, party Chairman Nelson Diaz said, with more than 700 people in attendance.
“I am so proud of what he’s done,” state Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami said when she introduced Lopez-Cantera. Lopez-Cantera twice got jabs in against the most significant Democratic Senate candidate, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, and another likely candidate, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando.
Rubio, who was booked as the keynote speaker a year ago, is close to Lopez-Cantera; Lopez-Cantera sat on stage during Rubio’s campaign launch in Miami in April. Both Cuban-Americans served in the Florida House of Representatives and are endorsed by billionaire donor Norman Braman, a Miami auto magnate and former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles football team.
Lopez-Cantera was Miami-Dade’s elected property appraiser before being picked as Gov. Rick Scott’s running mate last year.
Scott has indicated he would stay out of the Republican Senate primary. Lopez-Cantera would not have to resign his lieutenant governor position to run for federal office, though he would likely face criticism for using his state office to leverage campaign money.