Reversing his pledge to return to private life if he did not win the Republican presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced last week that he will in fact run for re-election to the U.S. Senate, setting off a political chain reaction the effects of which are still in progress.
In a statement released June 22, Rubio acknowledged that going back on his pledge would provide fodder for his political adversaries.
“I understand my opponents will try to use this decision to score points against me,” he said. “Have at it.”
Rubio said he was motivated to enter the U.S. Senate race just two days before the candidate filing deadline because of the senate’s key role in serving as a check and balance on the power of the president. And in his announcement, the senator stressed he had concerns about both a Hillary Clinton and a Donald Trump presidency.
“No matter who is elected president, there is reason for worry,” Rubio said. “With Hillary Clinton, we would have four more years of the same failed economic policies that have left us with a stagnant economy.”
Rubio also charged that Clinton’s “failed foreign policy” allowed radical Islam to spread unchecked and that a Clinton presidency would ignore congressional oversight.
As for Trump, Rubio noted that the two candidates often sparred during the presidential primaries. “(Trump’s) positions on many key issues are still unknown,” Rubio said, “and some of his statements, especially about women and minorities, I find not just offensive but unacceptable.”
Were he to return to the U.S. Senate, Rubio said, he would be in a position to provide oversight of the next president and potentially tip the balance of political power in Washington.
“The control of the Senate may very well come down to the race in Florida,” he said. “That means the future of the Supreme Court will be determined by the Florida Senate seat…the stakes for our nation could not be any higher.”
Rubio’s decision to seek re-election had immediate political repercussions. Within hours of Rubio’s announcement, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis – who had been campaigning for Rubio’s senate seat – announced that he would instead seek re-election to his current role representing Florida’s 6th congressional district.
“In light of the Rubio development, I can best advance the cause (of limited government) by running for re-election to the U.S. House, where I can continue protecting taxpayers, promoting economic growth, helping our veterans and supporting our military.”
Republican contender Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera also withdrew from the race, voicing his support for Rubio’s re-election bid.
“Florida needs a principled conservative leader now more than ever, and that is what Marco has been and will continue to be,” Lopez-Cantera said in a statement, adding that he would be “continuing my service as Florida’s lieutenant governor with Gov. Scott focusing on Florida.”
Prior to Rubio’s re-entry into the U.S. Senate race, the contest was already crowded with candidates. On the Democratic side, both U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson were seeking the nomination in a field that also includes Pam Keith, Reginald Luster and Roque De La Fuente. Currently, the Republican slate now includes Rubio, Todd Wilcox, Ernie Rivera, Carlos Beruff, Dwight Mark Anthony Young and write-in candidate Howard Knepper. U.S. Rep. David Jolly and Ilya Katz previously withdrew from the race.
In addition, a number of third-party and no party affiliation candidates are also seeking the seat, including Independents Tony Khoury, Basil Dalack, Bruce Nathan and Steven Machat; Libertarians Augustus Sol Invictus and Paul Stanton; and write-in candidates Bradley Patrick, Jon Friend, Angela Marie Walls-Windhauser, Robert Samuel Kaplan and Charles Tolbert.
The primary election for the U.S. Senate seat is Aug. 30, with the general election to be held Nov. 8.
Rubio’s announcement and DeSantis’s subsequent re-entry into the congressional election has impacted that race as well, with candidate Brandon Patty withdrawing from the race. As of press time, candidates for the seat included DeSantis, G.G. Galloway and Fred Costello on the Republican side and Democrats William McCullough, Jay McGovern, George Pappas and Dwayne Taylor.
Noting that DeSantis, a Ponte Vedra resident, no longer lives in the 6th congressional district – redistricting moved part of Ponte Vedra into the 4th district – Costello said DeSantis’ entry into the race does not change his plans.
“Congressman DeSantis’ decision to back out of the Senate race and enter the Congressional District 6 race rather than run in the Congressional District 4 race where he lives does not in any way change my focus,” he said. “I entered the (race) to serve my community and to run for America’s future, not as a stepping stone for higher office.”
According to St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes, congressional candidates are not required to live in the district they represent, as federal offices are not subject to Florida statutes.
In the newly redrawn 4th congressional district race, candidates who have qualified for the ballot include Republicans John Rutherford, Bill McClure, Lake Ray, Hans Tanzler III, Stephen Kaufman, Edward Malin and Deborah Katz Pueschel. Julia Fletcher announced her withdrawal from the race last week.