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Roll Call

Former Steakhouse CEO Considering Florida Senate Bid

Bill Clark/Roll Call

Former Ruth’s Chris Steak House CEO Craig Miller is moving toward announcing a Senate bid in Florida. Miller, who would be entering an already crowded GOP field for the opportunity to take on two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D), will make a decision around July 1, a source close to him told Roll Call.

Miller lost the Republican primary for the state’s 24th district seat to now-Rep. Sandy Adams and another candidate in a photo-finish three-way race in 2010. Making the rounds in Washington, D.C., this week, he presented himself to Roll Call as substantively different from the current crop of candidates, who are all politicians.

In a 45-minute interview, Miller emphasized his business bona fides but noted a number of times that his roots were in the dish room of a restaurant, not in the boardroom of a corporation.

“You will see that there’s more grease in my veins than there is blue blood,” said Miller, 60. If he joins the Senate race, he’ll face state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner and former Sen. George LeMieux.

Miller, who also served in the leadership of the National Restaurant Association, said he thinks he would bring a new perspective to a field full of current and former politicians. “There are a lot of differences between me and the other candidates in this race: They are all Tallahassee Republicans,” he said.

He insisted he would deliver more straight talk on big issues, alluding to a recent incident in which Haridopolos was kicked off a radio show for not answering whether he supported House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan. Miller said he supports the Ryan plan, which has become a political litmus test for both parties because it overhauls Medicare.

Miller added that the GOP primary field is still wide open, noting that neither Hasner nor Haridopolos nor LeMieux had ignited support among the grass roots of the state.

“The biggest constituency out [in Florida] has no idea who they’re going to vote for yet,” Miller said. “That’s where I think I have the opportunity.”

Roll Call Politics rates the Florida Senate race a Tossup.

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