When Todd Wilcox, an ex-CIA officer and Orlando defense contractor, dropped out of the race for the Senate it cleared the way for a showdown between incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio and Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff.
How much impact Wilcox’s decision will have on the race is debatable. Beruff said Wilcox “hasn’t even moved the needle.”
Wilcox entered the race last year when Rubio planned not to seek re-election, and campaigned against career politicians. He confirmed Friday he’ll step aside and endorse Rubio.
“There is no doubt that Republican control of the Senate is the only way to preserve the Constitutional integrity of our Supreme Court, realign our military’s force structure and ensure the basic freedoms and liberties that make ours the greatest country in the world,” Wilcox said in a statement. “Sen. Rubio and I don’t agree on everything. We’ve traveled different paths, but I respect his grasp of the challenges we face and I appreciate the reality that he, as the incumbent, is best positioned to defeat either Patrick Murphy or Alan Grayson in November.”
Until this week, there was no clear favorite in the Republican primary, giving first-time candidates such as Wilcox a rare opportunity. Rubio’s decision this week to seek re-election after his failed presidential camapign changed the odds for a once-crowded field of Republicans.
Reps. David Jolly and Ron DeSantis and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera dropped from the race after Rubio announced he would run.
Beruff, a Manatee County homebuilder, is the only other major Republican candidate still running.
Wilcox decided not to stay in the race to take on Rubio and Beruff.
“I am tired of going into the voting booth and holding my nose to vote for the least-worst candidate on the ballot,” he said after Rubio announced his re-election campaign Wednesday. “None of that has changed based on yet another career politician entering this race.”
Polls released by the Republican group Senate Leadership Fund showed Rubio with a dominant lead over Wilcox and Beruff in a primary matchup. There had been concern they would split anti-Rubio votes in the Aug. 30 primary.
Wilcox, who grew up in Tampa and joined the U.S. Army after graduating from the University of Tampa, made, “It’s time to elect a warrior,” his rallying cry. Much of his campaign was on the ground at Republican clubs and events with broad bases of voters such as gun shows.
He never attracted much support from donor groups. He pumped more than $1 million of his own wealth into his run, making him the biggest contributor to his campaign as of March. He said last month he was prepared to spend more of his own money to be elected.