The two Carloses of Florida's U.S. Senate race trade barbs
Continuing to dog his primary opponent for skipping a political forum last week, Republican Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera on Friday offered to pay for an Uber ride for fellow U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff so that Beruff could meet him on an event stage this weekend in Sarasota County.
Lopez Cantera's jab included a veiled reference to a speeding ticket Beruff once got for going 103 mph, as well as an attack on Beruff for supporting Charlie Crist after the former governor famously denounced the Republican Party and declared himself first an independent and then a Democrat.
The response from Beruff and his campaign: Calling Lopez Cantera a "lightweight" whose "obsession" with Beruff is "a little sad" and accusing Lopez Cantera of being "Charlie Crist's majority leader."
Beruff's absence from a political forum in South Florida last week has made him a prime target in recent days for his primary opponents in the race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.
The Boca Raton event was supposed to be the first political forum that featured all five Republican contenders. Beruff's campaign initially claimed a scheduling conflict, but then Beruff told a Sarasota TV station he "was never gonna go."
Earlier this week, Lopez Cantera accused Beruff of playing "political dodgeball" and avoiding voters. And then businessman Todd Wilcox, another candidate, questioned Beruff's manhood in an open letter on Thursday because Beruff said his four opponents weren't "worth debating." (The other two candidates in the GOP primary are U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly.)
In a statement today, Lopez Cantera said he was "excited to be heading back to Mr. Beruff's backyard this weekend for the NOVA Republican Club Picnic in Venice." Beruff is a developer from nearby Manatee County.
"So Mr. Beruff, here is my challenge to you: Voters deserve to hear why you thought it was appropriate to support Charlie Crist after he left the Republican Party and voters deserve to hear why you took a hard stance against Obama’s Cuba policy when you yourself traveled to Cuba to advocate for Obama’s policies," Lopez Cantera said. “If you are not afraid to answer these questions and maybe a few more, I look forward to seeing you there, and to avoid any urge to speed, I am happy to send an Uber to pick you up and drop you back off."
Beruff's campaign followed up this afternoon with a statement, blasting Lopez Cantera as a "professional politician (who) forgets part of his own resume."
"The Lieutenant Governor's obsession with Carlos Beruff is starting to get a little sad, but this is what professional politicians do when they're desperate – they sling mud," Beruff spokesman Chris Hartline said. "Charlie Crist's Majority Leader, who helped advance Charlie's liberal policies -- including $2.2 billion in tax increases on Florida families, is slinging mud because he can't defend his own record."
Speaking to a Times/Herald reporter at a Jacksonville campaign stop today, Beruff himself called Lopez Cantera a "lightweight."
To clarify, Beruff's jab about Crist isn't entirely accurate. While Lopez Cantera took over as House majority leader in late 2010 -- while Crist was still in office -- he actually led the chamber during the first two years of Republican Gov. Rick Scott's administration.
After seeing Beruff's campaign statement, Lopez Cantera spokeswoman Courtney Alexander asked: "So is that a 'no' to the Uber? Or a 'no' to Charlie Crist?"
Times/Herald reporter Jeremy Wallace contributed to this report from Jacksonville.