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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Republicans, Democrats take aim at likely late entrant into Florida's U.S. Senate race



A wealthy land developer from Manatee County still hasn’t said if he intends to run for the U.S. Senate, but potential GOP rivals and Democrats are already taking aim at him.

Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff confirmed last month he is considering running for the Senate. And earlier this week, a media consultant who has spoken to Beruff about the race, told the Associated Press that she believes Beruff is likely to get into the contest, though Beruff has not confirmed that.

Though not in the race, potential rivals on both the Democratic and Republican sides aren’t wasting any time attacking Beruff. One GOP camp has already begun anonymously circulating previously reported stories to reporters about Beruff’s tenure at Medallion Homes. The Manatee-County based Medallion Homes, which Beruff founded in 1984, was found to have been among companies that used tainted drywall from a Chinese company to build homes during the mid-2000s. More than 7,000 homes in the U.S. have been reported to have the drywall, which studies have shown emitted sulfur gas that can corrode electrical wiring and trigger respiratory irritation. Medallion Homes was found to have at least a half-dozen homes built with the drywall. The company was part of a class action lawsuit resolved in 2012 that ordered the supplier of the drywall and companies that used it to remediate the damage the drywall caused.

“Sounds like the professional politicians are mighty scared of an outsider candidate,” said Joanna Burgos, a media consultant who has been in conversation with Beruff about running. “They are doing the Washington thing of throwing mud, and as usual, have confused their facts.”

If he gets in the race, Beruff would join a GOP field that already includes U.S. Reps Ron DeSantis and David Jolly, as well as Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and businessman Todd Wilcox. U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson are running on the Democratic side.

That line of attack comes just days after the DeSantis camp publicly blasted Beruff as a “Charlie Crist Republican,” because Beruff was a campaign donor to the former governor who switched his party registration from Republican to Independent in 2010, then later switched to being a Democrat to run for governor in 2014.

Democrats are also getting into the act. They are trying to make a pre-emptive strike to block Beruff from pitching himself as an outsider like Gov. Rick Scott and Donald Trump have successfully done. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put out a statement trying to label Beruff a longtime political insider.

“Beruff may try to frame himself as the outsider, but don’t be fooled – he is a longtime Republican insider with a collection of influential political appointments and a long history of trading money for influence,” the DSCC press release states.

They point out Beruff’s appointments to influential boards and commissions and his history of being a longtime GOP donor. Beruff and his wife Janelle have donated more than $600,000 to state and federal political campaigns since 2002. The couple has donated more than $200,000 to federal campaigns including $5,000 to Right to Rise, a political committee backing former Gov. Jeb Bush's campaign for the White House. Beruff has also hosted fundraisers for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, and supported U.S. Reps.Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, and Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, in their re-election campaigns. Beruff has given another $363,000 to state campaigns through himself and a half-dozen businesses he runs in Bradenton.

Beruff's donations have also gone to at least one Democrat. In 2006, after Buchanan won a bitter GOP primary, Beruff wrote two checks totalling $4,2000 to Buchanan's opponent, Sarasota Democrat Christine Jennings just before the general election.

If Beruff gets in the race, key Manatee County Republicans who know the 58-year-old developer say they expect he'll do it within the next 15 days.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 11, 2016 4:57pm]


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