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Marco Rubio reverses course, will seek re-election to the U.S. Senate

Two other GOP candidates depart race after Rubio’s decision

florida mugMIAMI (CFP) — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio will seek re-election to the Senate this fall, reversing an earlier decision to leave political office after his unsuccessful presidential campaign.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

After Rubio announced his decision June 22, two Republicans currently running for his seat, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Lieutenant Governor Carlos López-Cantera, announced they would drop out in deference to Rubio. DeSantis will now run for re-election in Florida’s 6th District.

In a statement announcing his change of heart, Rubio, who had been under pressure from national Republican leaders to run, said he was swayed by the prospect that “the outcome in Florida could determine control of the Senate.”

“That means the future of the Supreme Court will be determined by the Florida Senate seat,” he said. “It means the future of the disastrous Iran nuclear deal will be determined by the Florida Senate seat. It means the direction of our country’s fiscal and economic policies will be determined by this Senate seat.”

Rubio also took a swipe at both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, saying that “no matter who is elected president, there is reason for worry.”

He said Clinton would continue President Obama’s “failed” economic and foreign policies. As for Trump, Rubio’s former presidential primary foe, the senator said he had “significant disagreements” with the Republican nominee, particularly with regard to his “unacceptable” comments about women and minorities.

“If he is elected, we will need senators willing to encourage him in the right direction, and if necessary, stand up to him,” Rubio said. “I’ve proven a willingness to do both.”

Rubio also conceded that by changing his mind about seeking re-election, “my opponents will try to use this decision to score political points against me.”

“Have at it, because I have never claimed to be perfect, or to have all the answers.”

Recent polls have shown Rubio running strongest against both of the two major Democrats in the race, U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter and Alan Grayson of Orlando. A recent Quinniapiac University poll, taken before Rubio entered the race, showed him with a 7 point lead over Murphy and an 8 point lead over Grayson, with none of the other Republicans leading in head-to-head match-ups with the Democrats.

Rubio’s entry has scrambled what had been a five-way battle for the Republican nomination. DeSantis, López-Cantera and U.S. Rep. David Jolly have now all departed, leaving Carlos Beruff, a real estate developer from Manatee County, and Todd Wilcox, a defense contractor and former CIA agent from Windemere.

Beruff slammed Rubio’s decision to “break his pledge to the people of Florida.”

“This isn’t Marco Rubio’s seat; this is Florida’s seat,” Beruff said in a statement. “The power brokers in Washington think they can control this race. They think they can tell the voters of Florida who their candidates are. But the voters of Florida will not obey them.”

Report: López-Cantera will step aside if Marco Rubio changes his mind about the Senate

Florida’s lieutenant governor tells Politico he has urged Rubio to reconsider his decision not to seek re-election

florida mugMIAMI (CFP) — Just days before qualifying is set to begin in Florida’s U.S. Senate primary, Lieutenant Governor Carlos López-Cantera has disclosed that if U.S. Senator Marco Rubio decides to run for re-election, he will end his own Senate campaign.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera

López-Cantera, who got into the Senate race at Rubio’s urging, tells Politico that when he met Rubio at the scene of the Orlando nightclub massacre, he urged Rubio to reconsider his decision not to seek re-election in 2016.

Rubio has been under increasing pressure from Republican Senate leaders to reverse course and run again. But his longtime personal and political friendship with López-Cantera has been seen as an obstacle to any Rubio candidacy.

Rubio gave up his seat to make an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination and has insisted repeatedly that he will not be a Senate candidate. But Florida’s relatively late party primaries, at the end of August, have left him a window of time to change his mind.

Qualifying ends June 24, giving Rubio a little more than a week to make a final decision.

Rubio is seen as the strongest Republican candidate in the Senate race, which Democrats are trying to capture to wrest Senate control away from the GOP. López-Cantera and three Republican rivals have been battling for the nomination; the lieutenant governor is the only one of them who has won statewide.

There has also been speculation that another GOP Senate candidate, U.S. Rep. David Jolly of St. Petersburg, will also abandon the race and instead seek re-election to his 13th District House seat.

Jolly opted to take a pass on defending his House seat after a court-ordered redistricting added Democratic voters to what had been a swing district. However, the likely Democratic nominee for that seat is former Governor Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat who lost statewide races in 2010 and 2014.

As the incumbent, Jolly would be in the best position to thwart the political resurrection of Crist, a man roundly despised in Republican circles.

The other Republicans in the Senate race include Carlos Beruff, a real estate developer from Manatee County, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who represents a Jacksonville area House district.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter and Alan Grayson of Orlando are battling for their party’s nomination.

State of the Races: U.S. Senate 2016

GOP favored in 7 of 9 Southern contests; Democrats have a shot at 2

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states sm(CFP) — The 2016 election will feature nine contests across 14 Southern states, all of which are currently held by Republicans. And there appears to be precious little opportunity for Democrats to make inroads in the GOP’s regional hegemony.

Florida and North Carolina appear to be the best shots Democrats have to reverse the region’s GOP tide, although the decision by Marco Rubio to run for re-election significantly bolsters Republican chances in the Sunshine State. Louisiana is another possibility if the 24-candidate free-for-all in the Pelican State’s all-party jungle primary creates an unexpected Democratic opportunity. The other six races are foregone conclusions, barring some unforeseen Republican calamity.

Republicans currently hold 24 of the 28 Southern Senate seats, including both seats in 11 out of the 14 Southern states.

Here is the 2016 rundown:

shelby

Shelby

Alabama: Republican U.S. Senator Richard Shelby is running for a seventh term. Democrats aren’t putting up a fight, letting their nomination go to a marijuana rights activist. Given that a Democrat hasn’t won a Senate race in the Yellowhammer State since 1990, Shelby is virtually assured of another term, at the end of which he’ll be 88 years old. RATING: SAFE GOP

Boozman

Boozman

Arkansas: Republican U.S. Senator John Boozman is seeing a second term, despite suffering an aortic aneurysm in 2014 that kept him away from Washington for two months. The Democrats were unsuccessful in getting their top pick, former Governor Mike Beebe, to run, though they did manage to recruit a credible challenger in Conner Eldridge, a former federal prosecutor from Fayetteville. Still, a statewide race is a hard slog these days for a Democrat in the Natural State. RATING: PROBABLY GOP

rubio sm

Rubio

murphyp-sm

Murphy

Florida: Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s decision to reverse course and seek re-election significantly improved Republican prospects for keeping this seat. Rubio will face U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy from Jupiter, who won the primary over liberal firebrand Alan Grayson with support from the Democratic establishment. Rubio has to be considered a favorite here, but if Hillary Clinton turns out to have coattails in the Sunshine State, this could be a race in November. RATING: GOP FAVORED

Isakson

Isakson

Georgia: Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson is running for re-election, despite publicly disclosing that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Peach State Democrats have recruited Jim Barksdale, the owner of an Atlanta investment firm, to take on Isakson. However, that strategy didn’t work in 2014 with Michelle Nunn, and there is little indication that Isakson is in trouble this time around. RATING: PROBABLY GOP

Paul

Paul

Kentucky: Now that Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul ended his presidential run, he will be a prohibitive favorite for re-election. Democrats have managed to recruit a high-profile challenger with deep pockets, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. But in a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1992, Gray will have a big mountain to climb. RATING: PROBABLY GOP

Vitter

Vitter

Louisiana: After losing a bid for governor, Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter announced he would not seek re-election to the Senate, leaving his seat up for grabs. A gaggle of 24 candidates are seeking the seat, running in the state’s all-party jungle primary in November, with the top two advancing to a December runoff.

Democrats running include Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and Caroline Fayard, a New Orleans lawyer. The Republican side of the ballot includes two sitting U.S. House members, Charles Boustany of Lafayette and John Fleming of Minden; State Treasurer John Kennedy; Joseph Cao, a Vietnamese-American who represented the New Orleans area in Congress from 2009 to 2011; and Rob Maness, who made a spirited but unsuccessful Tea Party-backed bid for the Senate in 2014. White racist David Duke also filed on the GOP ticket.

While Republicans should be favored to keep this seat, Vitter’s loss to a Democrat in the governor’s race shows a flip for the Democrats is possible, if they can unite behind a high-profile challenger. Democrats could also benefit by having fewer candidates dividing up their vote in the primary. RATING: PROBABLY GOP

Lankford

Lankford

Oklahoma: Republican U.S. Senator James Lankford is facing voters for the second time in two years after being elected to serve out the remainder of former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn’s term in 2014. Given that Lankford cruised to victory with 68 percent of the vote last time and Democrats haven’t won a Senate race in Oklahoma in 25 years, this race is a foregone conclusion. RATING: SAFE GOP

Burr

Burr

North Carolina: Republican U.S. Senator Richard Burr is running for a third term, and he dodged a major bullet when former Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, who was bounced from the Senate in 2014, decided not to run against him. Instead, he will face Deborah Ross, a former state legislator and Duke University law professor. North Carolina is a state where Democrats can still win statewide races, but Ross starts from well behind. RATING: PROBABLY GOP

Scott

Scott

South Carolina: Republican U.S. Senator Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, is facing voters for the second time in two years, after being appointed in 2013 to replace former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint. This time, he’s running for a full term in his own right, and he has not drawn a major challenger. He took 61 percent of the vote in 2014; count this race as a slam dunk. RATING: SAFE GOP

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson off and running for Senate seat in Florida

Outspoken liberal firebrand’s campaign sets up a battle royale in the Democratic primary

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

florida mugORLANDO (CFP) — U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, the firebrand liberal notorious for caustic comments about Republicans, has announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2016, setting up what is likely to be a bruising Democratic primary battle in the Sunshine State.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson

“I am unbought and unbossed,” Grayson, D-Orlando, said in a video announcing his Senate bid posted to his campaign website July 9. “I own nothing to anyone but the people.”

Grayson is running in defiance of Democratic party leaders, who are backing moderate U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter and had hoped to avoid what is likely to be a divisive Democratic primary.

On the day of his announcement, Grayson provided a flavor of what’s to come in an interview with WKMG-TV in Orlando, in which he accused Murphy of being a closet Republican and said the Senate race “is going to live until the end of time.”

“People understand what I stand for. Patrick wants to cut Social Security, cut Medicare, and Patrick gave $2,300 to Mitt Romney’s campaign,” he said. “Patrick’s running in the wrong primary. He should be running as a Republican because that’s who he really is.”

To bring home the flavor of his political persona, Grayson is calling his campaign website SenatorWithGuts.com.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy

For his part, Murphy greeted Grayson’s announcement by issuing a statement saying he was looking forward “to a clean, honest discussion of the issues in this primary.”

Grayson, 57, a Harvard-educated lawyer, burst onto the national scene after his election to Congress in 2008 with a floor speech in which he said the GOP’s health care plan was for the uninsured “to die quickly.” He has called Republicans “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals,” likened the Tea Party to the Ku Klux Klan and once compared former Vice President Dick Cheney to a vampire.

In 2009, he had to apologize after calling a female lobbyist “a K Street whore.” He is also known to subject reporters to profanity-laden tirades for stories he doesn’t like.

Grayson’s controversial profile cost him his House seat in 2010, a campaign in which he referred to his opponent, U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, as “Taliban Dan” in a television ad. But Grayson returned to Congress in 2012, winning in a newly created Orlando-area district.

In addition to his hyperbolic comments, Grayson is also involved in a nasty divorce with his wife of 25 years, Lolita, whom he accused of bigamy and tried to have arrested for using a joint credit card to buy groceries. Lolita Grayson has charged that the congressman was unfaithful and abusive.

In his kickoff announcement, Grayson took an unabashed liberal line, calling for ending taxes on Social Security benefits, expanding Medicare to cover dental and vision care and ensuring that “every job should provide enough money to become part of the middle class.”

The Senate seat opened up when Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio decided to run for president. Democratic leaders are fearful that Grayson’s is too controversial and too liberal to win a statewide race in Florida — squandering an opportunity to pick up a seat that is vital to the party’s hopes of taking back the Senate.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is backing Murphy, 32, who was a registered Republican until he switched parties to run for the House in 2012. He was re-elected in 2014 with nearly 60 percent of the vote in a competitive district.

On the Republican side, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis has jumped into the Senate race, and Lieutenant Governor Carlos López-Cantera is also expected to run.

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