Is Francis Rooney the unicorn in Florida’s U.S. Senate race?

in 2017/Top Headlines by

Last week, was the first to report that Manatee developer Carlos Beruff was considering entering the race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat. That report was later confirmed by a story in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that outlined how a “team is in place and ready to go” if Beruff pulls the trigger on running.

Keep that reporting in mind as we dish out this rumor…

Francis Rooney, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and the CEO of a major Naples-based an investment and holding company, is the “unicorn” we referred to in our previous reporting.

As investigated the possibility of Beruff running, several sources said that another possible self-funder is considering entering the race. One source described this self-funder as a “Rick Scott-type minus the baggage … from Southwest Florida … with the ability to write a check for $100 million (for both the primary and the general) … who would force DeSantis and Jolly to consider immediately dropping out of the race.”

Rooney checks all of those boxes.

Three prominent Florida Republicans, two with first-hand knowledge of Rooney’s thinking, confirm that he is thinking about running.

BUT (and there is always a but), the word from the horse’s mouth is that he is not the unicorn we all have been looking for.

Rooney told’s Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster that running for the U.S. Senate is way out of consideration. Instead, Rooney said, he is focused on helping elect Jeb Bush to The White House. Rooney’s company, Rooney Holdings, Inc., has donated more than $2 million to Right to Rise, the political committee backing Bush’s bid.

At this point, we’ll label this a developing story, although we have two other rumors to share…

The first is that Beruff, if he runs (and it increasingly looks like he will) has committed to seeding his campaign with $5 million. We also hear he’s hired or is about to hire Curt Anderson and On Message Inc., the political consulting firm which worked for Governor Rick Scott’s two successful statewide campaigns.

The second nugget we hear is that Brian Hughes, fresh off his win in the high-profile Jacksonville mayoral race, has signed on with Todd Wilcox’s dark horse campaign. For more about Wilcox’s campaign, be sure to read this in-depth profile by FP’s Mitch Perry. UPDATE – 10:41 a.m.: A press release from the Wilcox campaign confirms that Hughes will be the campaign manager.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.