Elections

Challenger has 15 million reasons why Rubio shouldn’t run for reelection

Carlos Beruff announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate in Miami, February 29, 2016.
Carlos Beruff announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate in Miami, February 29, 2016. The Miami Herald

Carlos Beruff reassured campaign staff this week that he is not backing out of his bid for the U.S. Senate and is ready to open his wallet even more if Marco Rubio joins the race.

The Manatee County land developer who has already spent more than $4 million of his own money told staff Monday night that he’s prepared to put in another $10 million to $15 million to win the Republican primary.

If he hits $20 million, Beruff would be one of just three U.S. Senate candidates in the past 10 years to self-fund as much. Only Connecticut Republican Linda McMahon (2010, 2012), Texas Republican David Dewhurst (2012) and Florida Democrat Jeff Greene (2010) invested $20 million or more. Each of them lost.

Campaign spokesman Chris Hartline would not comment on the closed-door meeting but said the campaign is ramping up its advertising.

The commitment comes as Rubio continues to weigh running for re-election. Rubio has said that the mass shooting in Orlando gave him “pause” to think about how he can best serve. Rubio has not said when he will make a decision but has until noon Friday — the deadline to qualify for the U.S. Senate race.

While Rubio’s indecision has halted campaigning for some Republicans in the race, Beruff continues to motor on, planning stops in Panama City on Wednesday, running Spanish-language radio ads in Miami highlighting his Cuban roots, and jabbing at Rubio in press releases the past two days. A day after his campaign labeled Rubio a “career politician,” Beruff said he’s not waiting on Rubio to make up his mind.

“If you have to wait and see what Marco Rubio is going to do, you’re probably running for the wrong reasons,” Beruff said. “My campaign isn’t about political calculation. I’m focused on bringing real change to Washington because the career politicians have screwed things up so badly.”

Five Republicans were initially in the race to replace Rubio in the Senate. Beruff and Orlando-area businessman Todd Wilcox have both said they are not intimidated by the prospect of running against Rubio and are ready to take him on in the Aug. 30 primary.

U.S. Rep. David Jolly dropped out last week, and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is expected to drop out if his friend Rubio gets into the race. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis’ campaign is ignoring the Rubio rumors. But if Rubio gets in, there is speculation DeSantis would instead run for re-election to the U.S. House.

Contact Jeremy Wallace at jwallace@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263. Follow @jeremyswallace.

Top self-funders for U.S. Senate since ’06

$50 million: Linda McMahon, Republican, Connecticut, 2010. Lost race.

$49 million: Linda McMahon, Republican, Connecticut, 2012. Lost race.

$24 million: Jeff Greene, Democrat, Florida, 2010. Lost in primary.

$20 million: David Dewhurst, Republican, Texas, 2012. Lost in primary.

$17 million: Ned Lamont, Democrat, Connecticut, 2006. Lost in primary.

Source: Center for Responsive Politics

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