Beruff Continues Fight Against Rubio



Carlos Beruff stands beside star-spangled decorations in front of a room at Luigi’s Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant in Port Charlotte. Some 20 people gather to hear the Manatee County homebuilder tell his own life story. The son of of Cuban dissidents starts with one of the most important moments in his life: the first one. “I won the lottery ticket by being born in this country, only because my parents had fled and were being pursued by the Batista police,” Beruff says.

Now Beruff is trying to beat the odds again, running for US Senate against an incumbent in his own party. Beruff announced his candidacy last year while US Sen. Marco Rubio still pursued the Republican presidential nomination. This Spring, it looked like Beruff was ready to fight back a crowded field of elected officials, with a Mason-Dixon poll showing him as the top candidate in the Republican field. But when Rubio made a surprise re-entry into the contest, every other major contender except Beruff dropped out. A SurveyUSA poll taken Jun 25–27 showed Rubio leading Beruff 63-11, a sign the sitting senator had instantly turned Beruff from a narrow frontrunner to an also-ran. But Beruff continues to soldier on, self-financing much of the campaign and buying expensive but widely viewed advertisements during the Republican National Convention last week. Those ads were noted by many in attendance in Luigi’s, who described Rubio in the same terms as the advertisements: pro-amnesty, absentee, etc.

Beruff says lifelong politicians lack the life experience of successful businessmen when it comes to tackling financial issues. “Marco Rubio simply doesn’t have the skill set to fix those problems,” Beruff says. “He’s a career politician from Day 1. He’s never signed a paycheck.” But as a homebuilder who has suffered through the ups and downs of housing cycles and recessions, Beruff says he can lead the country to better fiscal policy. He also promises not to serve more than two terms.

While a vocal supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, he describes himself more as a politician in the mold of Gov. Rick Scott, whose experience before his election to the governor’s mansion was in private sector health care. Bereft distanced himself from past associations with Republican-turned Democrat Charlie Crist, who as governor appointed Beruff to posts on the State College of Florida and Southwest Florida Water Management District boards. But he did boast of the work he achieved on those boards, including drawing down spending at SWFMD and ousting a college president at SCF. “A lot of people in Bradenton don’t like me because of that,” he says, but he hopes his record impresses voters fed up with spending. 

The Republican primary is scheduled for Aug. 30. 

Photo by Jacob Ogles: Carlos Beruff greets voters at Luigi's Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant.

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