Todd Wilcox is fuming that Carlos Beruff said Wilcox and the three other Republican U.S. Senate candidates aren't "worth debating."
Wilcox unleashed a torrent of criticism on Beruff Thursday morning, going so far as to question Beruff's manhood in a lengthy open letter to Beruff entitled "Man up."
"I am a decorated combat veteran who has twice led men into battle in defense of your freedom and liberty. You see, where I come from, real men stand up and face their opponents with honor and integrity," Wilcox wrote. "Next time you want to make excuses for hiding from Florida voters, keep your misguided estimation of my 'worth' to yourself."
The letter is in reaction to comments Beruff made on Sarasota TV last week -- when Beruff explained why exactly he skipped what was supposed to be the first political forum featuring all five Republican candidates running to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate.
Never miss a local story.
"I was never gonna go, so I don't understand what happened," the Manatee County developer told ABC 7. "I had a conflict, and I didn't go. That's all there is to it."
Reporter Alan Cohn later asked Beruff if it was important for him to debate his opponents ahead of the Aug. 30 primary, and Beruff responded: "When there's somebody worth debating. At this point, I don't think there is any."
Beruff and Wilcox, both businessmen, are painting themselves as the "outsiders" in the contest, which also includes U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera.
Lopez Cantera's campaign was also critical of Beruff's absence from last week's forum.
"Beruff is truly mastering the five D's of political dodgeball every time he continues to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and again, dodge the voters," Lopez Cantera spokeswoman Courtney Alexander said in a statement on Wednesday.
Wilcox said in his letter he's "not afraid" to speak to Republican supporters or stand on stages and take questions about issues. Implying Beruff is, Wilcox said: "You claim to be an outsider. You claim to be different than the guys in Washington, yet you're hiding behind your beltway consultants and your DC-produced political ads."
Beruff campaign spokesman Chris Hartline called Wilcox's letter "just another desperate cry for attention from one of our opponents."
"Carlos has travelled to all 67 counties in Florida meeting with voters, activists and local elected officials to talk about his message of bringing real change to Washington and will continue to do so," Hartline said in a statement.
Here's Wilcox's full "open letter" to Beruff:
While I can appreciate your disinterest in debating the career politicians in this race, I would like to address your definition of "worth."
I am a decorated combat Veteran who has twice led men into battle in defense of your freedom and liberty. You see, where I come from, real men stand up and face their opponents with honor and integrity. Next time you want to make excuses for hiding from Florida voters, keep your misguided estimation of my "worth" to yourself. The men and women I have stood shoulder to shoulder with in pursuit of a safer world for you and your family have never cowered when confronted by the enemy, so surely you can handle some friendly verbal jousting at a few rubber chicken dinners.
And while I may disagree with some of your business practices, I too have succeeded as a job creator. For sure there were days while building my business from the ground up that challenged me more than others and maybe I just wanted to stay home and not face anyone, but I've always thought about the people on my team and their families and the choice was easy: man up.
The United States Senate is already chock full of career politicians and insiders who fall in line for political expediency and refuse to stand up and speak out for the American people. They hide behind the velvet ropes and locked doors of the US Capitol, because God knows facing the people who sent them there and defending the choices they've made would simply be too much to ask.
You claim to be an outsider. You claim to be different than the guys in Washington, yet you're hiding behind your beltway consultants and your DC-produced political ads. We'll both spend a fortune before this is over, but the difference between you and me is simple. I'm not afraid to speak to the hard working GOP advocates who've dedicated their lives to the conservative cause, because they are worth it. I'm not afraid to stand on stage and take questions about my vision for securing this nation and igniting our economy, because the people of Florida's right to vet candidates is worth it. I'm not afraid to take questions about where I come from, where I've traveled or how I've conducted business, because being honest about who I am is worth it.
I guess you can't say the same.
So again, I renew my call for more debates, forums or whatever you need to call them to muster up the courage needed to directly address the issues, the voters and your opponents without the aid of poll tested scripts and media buys.