In the four weeks since Carlos Beruff launched his U.S. Senate campaign, he’s visited more than a dozen cities across the state, crossing off counties along the way.
The Manatee County businessman plans to visit all 67 counties before the August primary. It’s a tactic the first-time candidate is hoping will help propel him to the front of a crowded Republican field and on to the general election.
Beruff announced he was running for the U.S. Senate in February. The 58-year-old Bradenton homebuilder had never run for office before and said he decided to throw his hat in the race after a friend suggested the race “could really use” someone with business experience.
“I’ve been involved in trying to elect people at the local, state and federal level for 23 years, since I was 35,” he said in an interview with FloridaPolitics.com Fort Myers this week. “This was never on my radar.”
Yet when he was approached to consider a run, Beruff said he never really considered not doing it.
“I weighed the fact that most people at my stage of life who have been as lucky as I have been financially could really enjoy life. But then, if we don’t take responsibility for this country so we can leave a better future for our kids, isn’t it sort of a bit selfish,” he said. “I have the capability to potentially make a difference.”
In a year when voters are casting aside traditional candidates, Beruff is hoping to capitalize on his so-called outsider status.
He’s never run for office before but has served on several appointed boards, including the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the State College of Florida board of trustees. While those aren’t elected positions, the boards are tasked with handling millions of tax dollars.
Beruff said he’s getting a good response from Floridians as he’s traveling the state. But it’s unclear how well his message is resonating.
A recent U.S. Senate poll by Public Policy Polling was conducted before Beruff officially got in the race. That survey looked at how the top three Republican candidates would fare against Democratic hopefuls. That survey found 47 percent of Republicans voters said they had no candidate preference.
There’s also the potential for voter fatigue. The presidential election cycle has dominated the news cycle for more than a year, and GOP candidates across the country have been asked to choose sides and declare whether they would support Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
Beruff said Trump has tapped into the public’s anger, which is why his message seems to be resonating. But, Beruff said, that anger is coming from both sides of the aisle.
“It’s not just the Republican side, it’s the Democrats, too. They’re fed up with the status quo,” he said. “I think they have a right to be, like I am.”
Beruff hasn’t endorsed a presidential candidate, but told the Bradenton Herald that he would support the eventual Republican nominee. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Beruff is the first Senate candidate to say he would support Trump if he is the nominee.
Beruff faces Republicans David Jolly, Ron DeSantis, Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Todd Wilcox in the August Republican primary.
“I am a business guy who also has a track record of fixing and changing the status quo of the bureaucracies that have been well established,” he said. “The pubic is either going to embrace Carlos Beruff and what I stand for or not. That will, over the ensuing five months, will come out.”