Manatee County home builder and challenge for Sen. Marco Rubio's seat in Congress Carlos Beruff stopped by the Sarasota Patriots' Independence Day celebration on Monday.
Beruff’s roughly 15-minute speech gave a glimpse of what he said his focus would be as a senator.
Beruff lauded his business experience and time spent on community boards to the crowd of about 30 people, including Jim Bender, a Republican who’s running for Sarasota County tax collector and Vic Rohe, a Sarasota County Republican running for charter review board, district 2. Beruff founded Medallion Home in 1984, a residential development company responsible for Manatee County’s University Village, Twin Rivers and The Inlets communities, as well as the proposed Long Bar Pointe community in West Bradenton.
“What you have in Washington today is career politicians that don't care about us,” Beruff said. “They care about maintaining their status quo, their special interests and the special interest money that drives them to keep their jobs. I'm none of that.” Beruff has served on the State College of Florida Board of Trustees, the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority and the Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board.
Beruff cited his own personal wealth as a means of keeping out of the political funding rat race, a school of thought touted by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whom Beruff supports.
“I'm self-funding my campaign primarily because I will not be owned by anyone,” Beruff said.
The Sarasota Patriots, a conservative group, met Beruff’s positions and proclamations with approval and applause.
Joel Strom, 72, a member of the Sarasota Patriots, said he supports Beruff’s position on the Second Amendment and gun control.
“What’s not being brought up is the shootout in Germany after Orlando,” Strom said. “And Germany has tight gun control laws.”
On June 23, a masked man carrying a rifle entered a cinema in southwestern Germany and took several hostages. German police were able to enter the movie theater, shoot the armed man and free the hostages without any additional injuries.
Beruff told the crowd he owns eight guns and personally feels “you should be able to carry a weapon anytime you want.”
Bystanders Richard Weissfeld, 75, and Barby Comins, 74, questioned Beruff on the availability of semi-automatic weapons to “regular people.”
“As far as I'm concerned you should be able to purchase whatever gun you are allowed to under legal terms,” Beruff said. “Law-abiding citizens are not the problem in this country.”
Omar Mateen, the perpetrator who stormed the Orlando Pulse nightclub and shot 49 people dead on June 12, bought his guns legally days before the shooting.
Rubio has also publicly denounced assault-weapon bans after the Orlando attack.
Beth Colvin, member and event organizer for the Sarasota Patriots, said the Patriots wanted to host Beruff to help voters better understand their choices when the Aug. 30 primary election arrives.
“I just want people to hear him speak, see his body language and know who he is,” Colvin said. “We cannot support one Republican candidate against another; it’s just unethical. But we are obviously supporting him (Beruff) by having him speak.”