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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Onetime 'outsider' Senate candidate makes play to stay relevant in Republican politics

Then-Senate candidate Todd Wilcox speaks to members and guests of the Plant City Republican Women Federated Women's Club meeting at Uncle Mikes's Smokehouse in Plant City.

DAVID W DOONAN | Special To The Times

Then-Senate candidate Todd Wilcox speaks to members and guests of the Plant City Republican Women Federated Women's Club meeting at Uncle Mikes's Smokehouse in Plant City.

5

October

Todd Wilcox, a former CIA officer and self-styled outsider who backed out of the U.S. Senate race when Marco Rubio declared his plan to seek re-election, has taken one step closer to joining the political establishment.

On Wednesday, Wilcox announced he would become chairman of Restoring American Leadership, a super PAC whose aim is "ensure hard working entrepreneurs and brave warriors occupy seats from the state house to the White House in pursuit of the more perfect union our Founders intended us to be."

The super PAC isn't new. It was set up earlier this year to help fund Wilcox's run for U.S. Senate as a Republican. He raised about $14,000 in April from an executive at the Orlando-area defense contracting company he owns, Patriot Defense Group.

But Wednesday's move -- styled in a press release by Restoring American Leadership as the super PAC's official "launch" -- seemingly confirms that Wilcox intends to stay in politics.

Though Wilcox's self-funded campaign railed against establishment politics and politicians in Washington, he has been a supporter of Rubio, who faces U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy in the Nov. 8 general election. On the Aug. 30 primary night, Wilcox appeared alongside the sitting Senator at his victory rally in Kissimmee.

He continues to fund sponsored posts on Facebook, pushing out articles with headlines like "Todd Wilcox in Kabul: 'We’ve lost Afghanistan' " written for The Capitolist, Tallahassee political consultant Brian Burgess' blog.

Wilcox has publicly endorsed Republican candidates, as well, and donated to congressional campaigns.

His end game isn't clear, but one thing is: Wilcox wants to be relevant in Florida politics.

That's new, according to people close to him, who spoke with the Times/Herald for a June profile on Wilcox published just before Wilcox dropped out of the race.

"I've wanted him to run for public office for years," said Lawson Lamar, a longtime friend and 24-year former state attorney in Orlando and Osceola counies.

Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general and adviser to Donald Trump, said he's talked with Wilcox about their political frustration for years before Wilcox finally decided to run.

And Wilcox? He told us back then that he was running for the Senate "out of desperation and frustration," because he was "fed up."

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 2:38pm]

    

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