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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott bucks Republican leaders, doesn't back Marco Rubio

Gov. Rick Scott, who isn't backing Marco Rubio for Senate.

Scott Keeler | Times

Gov. Rick Scott, who isn't backing Marco Rubio for Senate.



In the last 24 hours, GOP leaders have thrown support behind Marco Rubio in his bid to be re-elected to the U.S. Senate. But the highest-ranking Republican in Florida is not among them.

Gov. Rick Scott is instead publicly encouraging Carlos Beruff, a Bradenton developer with close ties to the governor, to challenge Rubio in the Republican primary.

"Carlos Beruff is a good friend of mine, a businessman and an outsider to politics," Scott said in a statement. "The voters of Florida deserve the opportunity to consider his candidacy alongside Senator Rubio and make their own decision."

Scott further drew a comparison to himself, saying he was a "poltical outsider" when he first ran for governor in 2010 and defeated Attorney General Bill McCollum in the Republican primary.

The statement about Beruff is not far off from the governor's talking points ahead of the presidential preference primary in March: Scott publicly supported Donald Trump in a USA Today op-ed, but he refused to say he was endorsing the then-Republican frontrunner.

Asked if he would back Beruff, Scott adviser Melissa Stone reiterated a line in Scott's statement: "Florida Republicans will pick the nominee on their own."

Still, Scott's remarks stand in stark contrast to other Florida Republicans.

The Republican Party of Florida released a statement Wednesday welcoming Rubio to the race and extolling him as a "bold leader who is focused on real solutions to the issues facing Floridians." Scott's Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera cleared the way for Rubio to run and stepped down from the primary.

And the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced Wednesday it would give "full support" to Rubio.

[Last modified: Thursday, June 23, 2016 10:36am]


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