Last Wednesday, Florida’s Lieutenant Governor Carlos López-Cantera joined the race to replace Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in the United States Senate. In this exclusive interview with Breitbart News, López-Cantera shared his thoughts about why he thinks he is the Republicans’ strongest candidate, how he would have voted on several key issues, and his optimism for his newly launched campaign.
As Breitbart News reported, López-Cantera is Florida’s first Hispanic Lieutenant Governor and previously served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2004 until term limited out in 2012. During his time in the Legislature, he was Majority Whip and then Majority Leader. In 2012, he was elected Property Appraiser of Miami-Dade County.
He touts a nearly flawless report card from many of the organizations that grade elected officials on their support for conservative principles, including a 100 percent rating with the American Conservative Union, an A+ rating with the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, a 100 percent rating from the NFIB, a 100 percent rating from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, a 99 percent ranking from the Associated Industries of Florida, and a 100 percent rating from the Christian Family Coalition, which evaluates candidates on their support for pro-life and pro-family causes.
In a phone interview with Breitbart News, López-Cantera said that first few days of his campaign has been “exciting” and a “humbling experience.”
“We’ve gotten a lot of support from around the state, a lot of phone calls, a lot of congratulatory messages. It’s just been really great,” said López-Cantera. “We’re proud to have Pam Bondi endorse our campaign yesterday right out of the gate…I think that she understands and recognizes that I’d make a great Senator for our state and continue the work that I’ve been doing here in Florida in Washington, and focusing on outcomes and the people of Florida and what’s important to them.”
— Carlos Lopez-Cantera (@LopezCantera) July 16, 2015
As Politico’s Marc Caputo wrote, “Normally, endorsements don’t mean much. But in a GOP primary, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi brings a touch of star power – and the hint of fundraising prowess in Tallahassee.”
López-Cantera’s announcement that he was running spurred a flurry of attacks, mostly from the left: the Florida Democratic Party, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), the American Bridge PAC, and other Democratic operatives. The official Florida Democrats account even posted a string of “FACT” posts about López-Cantera, including at least one that was rated “Mostly False” by Politifact.
When asked about the Democrats’ reaction, López-Cantera laughed and said, “Well, I must be doing something right. You know the old saying, if you’re not upsetting somebody, then you’re not doing anything right. I guess I’m doing something right, because the Democrats have just been going bonkers…they must see me as a threat.”
Washington, D.C.-based conservative group FreedomWorks endorsed López-Cantera’s competition, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), in the primary. On the day López-Cantera announced, Mac Stoddard, FreedomWorks’ “digital marketing manager,” attacked him on Twitter, calling him “Charlie Crist’s rubber stamp.”
López-Cantera chuckled again when asked about Stoddard’s tweet. “I guess he didn’t see who I was on the ballot with Gov. [Rick] Scott against last year,” he quipped. After Scott appointed López-Cantera to replace former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the two were on the ballot together for Scott’s successful 2014 reelection campaign against none other than former Gov. Charlie Crist.
“Ask Marco Rubio if I’m Charlie Crist’s rubber stamp. I was with Marco on day one of his Senate campaign. That just shows how out of touch with Florida these groups are.” Rubio, of course, famously went from 3 percent in the polls against Crist in the 2010 Senate race to beating him by over 20 points and watching him flee the Republican Party to run as an independent. Crist’s gambit was all for naught, as Rubio still stomped him by double digits in a three way contest for the general election.
Besides DeSantis, who entered the race in May, another Republican, Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) announced he was running for the Senate seat as well on Monday. In comparison to López-Cantera, Jolly’s campaign launch drew statements attacking him from the DSCC and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), but not nearly to the degree that they and other Democratic groups threw at López-Cantera. Jolly was also the target of conservative groups like Conservative Review, the Citizens United Political Victory Fund, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and Club for Growth, which compared him to Crist, as Breitbart News reported.
Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times periodically conducts polls of a group of more than 160 Florida political insiders, and in a recent post about the Florida Senate race, included several comments about how the attacks on López-Cantera by Democrats showed they believe him to be the biggest threat out of the Republican field. “The Florida and national Democrats did [Carlos López-Cantera] a big favor this week; by going so over the top in their attacks they signaled he’s the one they most worried about in the general,” said one.
López-Cantera’s initial campaign plan includes a lot of travel. Friday he was in Tampa, meeting with business leaders and grassroots supporters. After that, he went to the Keys on Saturday, Orlando on Monday, and is in Jacksonville on Tuesday. “We’re just going to keep going around, meeting with as many people as we can, talk about why I’m running, and hopefully it will keep going as well as it has been.”
Like the man he wants to succeed in the Senate, López-Cantera is opposed to the Obama administration’s deal with Iran that was announced earlier this month. “I’d vote no [if I were in the Senate],” he said, noting that he still had many questions he would want to ask during the floor debate for the deal:
Why couldn’t we get something that I think is reasonable, a recognition of Israel’s right to exist, in the deal? Why did they get a $100 billion signing bonus? Why is it that we cannot make inspections of sites that we may find that are unreported without going through a whole bureaucratic process that could take weeks and weeks? The amount of time that it could take to get an approval through this process, they could already hide or change or move whatever they wanted to move.
I also read that even if the Congress votes it down, that the President is going to take it to the United Nations for approval before the Congress is back from their recess. It kind of seems like that was planned. I mean, this has just gotten ‘bad’ written all over it.
Breitbart News also asked López-Cantera about the shocking undercover video that showed Planned Parenthood’s top doctor calmly chatting about selling body parts from aborted babies while she eats a salad and sips on wine. As Breitbart News reported, Congress will be having hearings to investigate the findings in this video.
López-Cantera said that he hoped that Congress would have substantive hearings on this issue. “I wasn’t even able to finish the entire video, it was so upsetting,” he said. “I hope that somebody is brought to justice for that because there’s no place in a world I want to live in for that type of behavior. The fact that they tried and message this thing when they’ve been caught doing a horrible, horrible thing is even worse. It’s just really upsetting, really sad, really horrifying.”
On the Democratic side, liberal firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) entered the Senate race earlier this month, where he will face Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) in the August 2016 Democratic primary. As Breitbart News reported, the Democratic Party establishment quickly rallied to back Murphy, who they view as more electable than the scandal-prone, foot-constantly-in-mouth Grayson.
So far, Grayson appears to be winning his war against his own party. The most recent statewide poll of likely Florida Democratic voters showed that 29.7 percent preferred Grayson, 23.2 percent preferred Murphy, 7.7 percent preferred Pam Keith, 17.3 percent preferred someone else, and 22.1 percent were undecided. The poll was conducted by StPetePolls.org for Florida Politics.com on June 15, 2015, using automated telephone calling. The polling sample included 1,018 likely Florida Democratic voters and had a 3.1 percent margin of error.
The same Democratic Party and liberal organizations that attacked López-Cantera when he announced issued nothing but crickets when Grayson joined the race. The DSCC’s statement bragged that the Democrats “have a strong candidate in Patrick Murphy who is running a great campaign,” and amusingly claimed that Republicans would be “forced to endure a primary battle that promises to be ugly, divisive and damaging to their already tenuous hold on this seat.” If the Democrats are concerned about “ugly, divisive, and damaging” primaries, they may want to worry more about Grayson.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.