Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera moved closer to entering the open Florida Senate contest late Wednesday, announcing a super PAC to help him raise money for a potential candidacy.
Lopez-Cantera would be the second top-tier Republican to enter the contest — left vacant thanks to GOP Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential bid. GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis, a favorite of tea party-aligned outside groups, announced a bid earlier this month .
"I'm humbled that I have some friends that have signed on to the super PAC to support the possibility of a candidacy should I run," Lopez-Cantera said in a phone interview with CQ Roll Call Thursday morning.
Federal election law allows Lopez-Cantera, who has not filed federal paperwork to become an official candidate, to raise money for the super PAC. If he chooses to run, Lopez-Cantera would no longer have any contact or control over the funds raised.
A friend of Rubio who appeared on the gubernatorial ticket alongside Gov. Rick Scott in 2014, Lopez-Cantera is a familiar name to voters in the Sunshine State. He served in the state House for eight years until 2012, when term limits forced him out of his Miami-based district.
Though he declined to "pigeon-hole" himself when asked to describe the type of Republican he'd be in the race, GOP operatives in Florida say Lopez-Cantera would appeal to business-friendly conservatives in the state.
DeSantis, on the other hand, is already endorsed by a number of tea-party aligned groups, including the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth. Those groups are often a headache for Republican leadership, and are notorious for forcing expensive, and sometimes ugly, GOP primaries.
"I'll put my conservative record up against anybody’s record," Lopez-Cantera said. "I have a 10-year career in public service and I'm proud of the things I've been able to accomplish."
Lopez-Cantera declined to specify a timeline for entering the contest, though the super PAC will likely buy him time — allowing him to raise money for what's going to be one of the most expensive races in the country. Florida is home to some of the country's largest and most expensive media markets. And with the state a tossup at the presidential level, advertising time will be an even pricier commodity.
"I would say that the conservative grass-roots activists are probably going to be the ones to determine the timeline," Lopez-Cantera said of entering the race.
Other Republicans are also mulling bids, including GOP Reps. Jeff Miller and David Jolly.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Patrick Murphy announced a bid earlier this year , and has the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Outspoken Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson is also seriously considering a bid — a scenario that gives national Democrats heartburn.
Florida's Senate race is rated a Tossup contest by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.
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