- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A wealthy Manatee County homebuilder is likely to jump into Florida’s U.S. Senate race in a move that would pit key members of Gov. Rick Scott’s political team against Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera in the Republican primary.

Carlos Beruff has gone from considering entering the race to likely to get in, said Joanna Burgos, a Scott media consultant Beruff has talked with about a potential campaign.

Burgos said she and three other members of Scott’s team have consulted with Beruff, who served on Scott’s transition team after he won office in 2010. Scott has also appointed Beruff to several commissions.

Lopez-Cantera entered the race last year. Other major Republican candidates include U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly, and businessman Todd Wilcox. Polls show most voters are still undecided whom to back in the crowded field.

If Beruff gets in, Matt Parker would serve as his campaign manager. Parker was Scott’s 2010 field director and served as a consultant on Scott’s 2014 re-election. Also coming over from Scott’s campaigns would be Curt Anderson, who would help with polling, media and strategy, and fundraiser Debbie Alexander.

Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist working with a super PAC that’s backing Lopez-Cantera, said the fact that Scott’s political team would be working with Beruff doesn’t mean that Scott supports him.

“I think that Rick Scott would be the first to tell you that he has no dog in this fight,” Wilson said. “He’s been very supportive of Carlos.”

Still, it’s clear Scott thinks highly of Beruff. As well as serving on Scott’s transition team, Scott has appointed Beruff to the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority and the Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding.

And like Scott, Beruff is a political novice who would largely use his own money to seek the Senate seat Marco Rubio is giving up to seek the Republican presidential nomination.

Beruff has donated more than $75,000 to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political committee among more than $200,000 in contributions to Republicans.

Democrats seeking the seat include U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson.

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