Manatee County homebuilder Carlos Beruff has entered the crowded Republican Senate primary and plans to formally announce his candidacy during events in Miami and Sarasota on Monday.
In January, FloridaPolitics.com was the first to report of Beruff’s possible candidacy.
Beruff has set up a campaign account and produced a two-minute video designed to introduce himself to voters – something he’ll need to do a lot more of over the next six months since he’s never run for office.
In political circles, he’s known as a friend and financial supporter of Gov. Rick Scott. Scott named him to his transition team after being elected in 2010 and has since appointed him to several boards and commissions.
In the video, Beruff talks with voters in a restaurant about why he’s running and about his background in front of homes he’s built. He focuses on a message that echoes the governor’s: job creation and the need to cut government and its regulations.
“We believe in creating our own damn jobs, man. Government doesn’t create jobs, it creates dependency. It just takes,” Beruff said in the video. “The president has accelerated a culture of dependency on government.”
Beruff joins Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox and U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly in the primary to replace Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who is leaving office to run for president. U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson are seeking the Democratic nomination.
Beruff is putting together a campaign team of former Scott advisers.
While Beruff says in the video that he never finished college, he serves as a Scott appointee to the State College of Florida board of trustees. Scott also appointed Beruff to the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority and the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding.
While not as wealthy as Scott, who spent more than $70 million of his own money to be elected governor, Beruff plans to pay for a large part of his campaign. Beruff donated more than $75,000 to Scott’s re-election effort, among more than $200,000 he’s contributed to Republicans. And like Scott, who likes to talk about how he grew up in public housing and worked odd jobs before opening a small business, Beruff is highlighting his humble beginnings, talking about how he was born in Miami in 1958 to Cuban immigrants.
“If you wanted anything at all that was more than basic food and shelter, you had to make your own money,” Beruff says in the video. “My first job was mowing lawns, my second job was delivering dry cleaning, my third job was actually my first business, which was selling fireworks.”
Florida Democratic Party representative Max Steele issued a statement on Beruff’s announcement, calling the homebuilder a “millionaire GOP insider.”
“When Floridians think of political outsiders, mega-donors who’ve received nearly a half-dozen political appointments generally aren’t what comes to mind,” Steele said. “Yet Carlos Beruff, a millionaire donor who made headlines last September for using his appointment to line the pockets of a former business partner, expects Floridians to believe he’s free from any corrupting influences of the political process.
“When your entire candidacy is based on a lie, how can you expect Floridians to believe a word you say?”