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  1. Florida Politics

Veteran, political newcomer Todd Wilcox running for U.S. Senate

Published Jul. 9, 2015

A political newcomer, former Special Forces commander and CIA veteran Todd Wilcox of Orlando, on Wednesday announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

"It's time to restore America's prominence both here at home and abroad. The economy is growing at a dismal rate. More businesses are closing than are opening for the first time in our nation's history. Our personal freedoms are under attack by an intrusive executive branch in the name of national security, and our foreign policy decisions have resulted in our friends not trusting us and our enemies not fearing us," Wilcox, 48, said in a statement.

"If we expect to change the direction of our country, Florida's next U.S. senator cannot come from the same political class who are already running Washington, D.C. We need leadership with real-world experience."

Wilcox is president and founder of the Patriot Defense Group, a defense contractor. His campaign team includes veteran Republican consultant John Dowless of Orlando. Wilcox told The Buzz he has put $100,000 of his own money into his campaign and is prepared to spend up to $500,000, but will mainly rely on donations. He aims to raise at least $13 million for the primary.

Wilcox apparently has no political network to speak of, but his background as a combat veteran, entrepreneur and political outsider could be potent in a race with no clear frontrunner for the GOP nomination. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, another veteran, already has announced. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is expected to do so this month, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller also is strongly considering running.

Announced or likely Democratic candidates include U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy of Palm Beach County and Alan Grayson of Orlando. Grayson is expected to formally announce his campaign for U.S. Senate Thursday. His camp confirms only that he has made a decision about the U.S. Senate race, but the liberal lawyer and hedge fund operator has given every indication that he's running.

Bondi drops appeal on gay marriage

Eleven days after the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex couples have the right to marry everywhere in America, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has dropped her appeal of the state's first two gay marriage victories, in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

One year after Bondi became a national symbol in the conservative fight against gay marriage, she submitted one sentence just before 5 p.m. Tuesday to Florida's Third District Court of Appeal: "Pursuant to Rule 9.350(b) of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, Appellant State of Florida hereby voluntarily dismisses these appeals."

Said Miami Beach attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who helped represented six same-sex couples in the Miami-Dade case: "We are grateful that this misguided attempt at defending an indefensibly bigoted law has at long-last been abandoned."

Miami Herald reporter Steve Rothaus contributed to this report.