Republicans from Manatee and Sarasota counties rallied Saturday afternoon at Robart’s Arena in Sarasota to partake in a straw poll, enjoy some pie and meet the candidates.
In the marquee attraction, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Senate candidate Carlos Beruff shared the same stage for the first time in this race.
Rubio arrived as the rally was already underway with a crowd forming at the door near the stage hoping for the opportunity to shake hands or take a photo.
Beruff, the Manatee County developer, arrived prior to rally getting underway to chat with voters and shake hands.
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Hundreds of voters cast straw-poll ballots and listened to candidates. Results of the straw poll were not released.
Rubio took the stage and introduced his son, Dominick, to the crowd, giving the pre-teen an opportunity to address the crowd, but the boy stayed quiet.
Rubio began stressing the importance of party unity and defeating the Democrats in the Nov. 8 general election.
“We have to come together as a party. We cannot lose to Hillary Clinton. We cannot lose the White House. We have to make sure Donald (Trump) wins the election,” Rubio said.
He went on to criticize the Democratic National Convention
“The first night of the convention, sixty people spoke. Not a single person said the word ISIS. Not a single one of them said the word terrorism,” Rubio said. “What world do these people live in?”
Rubio spoke harshly of the two leading Democratic candidates vying for his seat, Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson.
“One of them is the guy that this week was revealed he used to beat up his wife for a decade. His name is Alan Grayson and he is clinically insane. He’s literally crazy,” Rubio said. “The other guy’s never achieved a thing in his life so he lies about it. His entire resume is made up.”
Rubio also took some shots from Beruff, who pointed to the senator’s 23 years in politics as a liability.
“That’s the only thing he knows how to do,” Beruff said. “Politicians can speak pretty.”
He told the crowd Rubio came to them six years ago asking for support and saying he would never support amnesty, but 15 months later led the effort (for comprehensive immigration reform).
“I have a history here. I have been here 36 years. I have lived a life I never dreamt I’d live,” Beruff said. “I was raised in poverty.”
Beruff touched upon his humble early beginnings in the Liberty City neighborhood in Miami as his mother and grandmother struggled to feed him and his siblings. He told the crowd he understood economic hardship.
“The only reason you should run for public office is for something very, very simple: public service. It should not be any other reason,” Beruff said. “All he does is talk, talk, talk. If all I did was talk, I’d be broke.”
Beruff and Rubio agreed on one party politics issue echoed by others: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump must defeat Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Ed Cook, 79, of Palmetto, was among the many who arrived early to enjoy a slice of Yoder’s pie and meet the candidates. Voters were treated to slices of key lime, chocolate, strawberry, coconut cream, apple, apple crumb and pumpkin pie from Yoder’s Amish Restaurant in Sarasota.
“We don’t hear too much on some of these candidates so that’s why I’m here,” Cook said.
Cook said he definitely supports Steve Vernon for state representative in District 73.
“He is a very strong conservative,” Cook said. “He got tired of voting for people that made promises they didn’t keep.”
Linda Miller, 72, of Venice, proudly put her ballot in the ballot box leaving no doubt where her loyalties lie.
“I’m here for Trump. Trump, Trump, Trump,” Miller said.
Miller said she went to the rally because she wanted to meet candidates.
“I’m pretty gutsy person and I’m sick of the nonsense of both political parties,” Miller said.