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Politics / Issues

Manatee Homebuilder Beruff To Run For U.S. Senate

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After weeks of flirting with a run, homebuilder Carlos Beruff has decided to enter the crowded Republican field for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat.

Beruff, who has served on appointed boards overseeing state universities and a water management district but has never run for office, is trying to snag the GOP nomination in one of the most closely-watched Senate races in the country. Florida could decide whether Democrats are successful in their drive to retake the Senate majority they lost in 2014.

His campaign released an online video Thursday, entitled "Come hell or high water," to formally mark his entrance into the race. In it, Beruff puts the issue of a growing "culture of dependency" up front.

"Government doesn't create jobs," Beruff says. "It creates dependency. It just takes. The problem is that the government keeps taking more of our money from us. Obamacare is a disaster...It just flat doesn't work."

The video also provides a soft-bio introduction for Beruff, from Sarasota, and features him speaking with voters and occasionally letting loose some Donald Trump-esque language. "Because we believe in creating our own damn jobs, man!" he says in one scene.

Beruff is set to more formally kick off his campaign Monday with events in Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando and Sarasota.

At 4:30 p.m., he will hold a press conference at the Medallion Home headquarters at 1651 Whitfield Ave. in Manatee County.

There might be room in the race, since no one on the GOP side has run away with it yet. A Florida Atlantic University poll in mid-January showed Republican Congressman David Jolly with a sizable 20-point lead over fellow GOP Congressman Ron DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Businessman Todd Wilcox, who is also a candidate, wasn't included.

But Jolly had just 28 percent of the vote, and half of Republican voters were undecided. The poll also had a margin of error of 5.2 percentage points.

In a sign that Beruff could be a formidable candidate, some opponents wasted little time ripping into him. DeSantis's campaign set up a website --- CharlieCristRepublican.com --- to try to tar the newcomer with his support for former Gov. Charlie Crist, a hated figure among party faithful since he bolted the GOP in 2010.

"Florida conservatives won't forget that when it mattered most, Carlos Beruff supported liberal Charlie Crist even after he'd embraced Obama's failed stimulus plan, and appointed multiple liberals to Florida's Supreme Court...The last thing Florida needs is a Charlie Crist Republican in the U.S. Senate," DeSantis campaign manager Brad Herold said.

The Florida Democratic Party also got in some shots with questions about Beruff's activities on state boards.

"When Floridians think of political outsiders, mega-donors who've received nearly a half-dozen political appointments generally aren't what comes to mind," party spokesman Max Steele said.