- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - There are four Republican Senate candidates trying hard to convince voters they are Washington outsiders.

Then there’s U.S. Rep. David Jolly.

In an election year when it is in vogue for Republicans to declare they aren’t part of the political establishment, Jolly is embracing his Washington resume, which includes work as a lobbyist and as an aide to his predecessor, the late Congressman Bill Young.

“Everybody wants to be Donald Trump in this race. I want to run on experience and qualifications and having already delivered for the state of Florida,” Jolly said.

“Being a United States senator is a serious job. Being angry is not a qualification. Mimicking the success of another political candidate in Donald Trump just because it’s worked for him is not a qualification.”

He’s referring to Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and businessmen Todd Wilcox and Carlos Beruff. All have campaigned as being Washington outsiders, though not necessarily with the tone and demeanor of Trump, the brash billionaire businessman and reality TV star who is the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee.

All five candidates worked a Republican Party of Florida meeting over the weekend, talking to activists and trying to build support for their campaigns. They are seeking the seat Republican Marco Rubio is giving up after his failed bid for the presidency. It is one of a handful of seats nationally that is seen as a key to which party controls the chamber.

By contrast, here’s what the four candidates not named Jolly have to say about Congress and the need to change a broken system:

- Beruff, a homebuilder and major political donor who has been appointed to several boards and commissions by Gov. Rick Scott, has spent more than $2 million of his own money on ads telling voters he’s not a politician. In one, he says, “Washington politicians are worthless.” In an interview during the RPOF event, he said Washington has done nothing for two decades. “The public is waking up and saying, ‘You know, you don’t represent us anymore, so we’re going to send people up there who at least have a chance of changing the dynamics instead of the same people over and over again expecting a different result.’”

- Wilcox, a businessman who has spent at least $1 million of his own money, also cites his lack of political experience as a plus. He says his business knowledge and his experience in the Middle East on the battle lines and working with the CIA gives him an edge to fix two things Washington has struggled with: the economy and national security. “The heart of our problems and the reason we can’t solve a lot of these problems is career politicians.”

- DeSantis, a former Navy lawyer and federal prosecutor, had never run for office before being elected to the House in 2012 with tea party support. He has a reputation for not simply following in lockstep with his party leaders. “We need a fundamental overhaul of Washington, and that’s really what I’ve tried to do since I’ve been there, whether it’s being the most fiscally conservative member in Florida, whether it’s supporting things like term limits, leading by example - declining my pension.”

- Lopez-Cantera, who served eight years in the state House and as the Miami-Dade property appraiser, said the nation’s top priority is solving the national debt. He blames both parties for making it a crisis and said his legislative record shows he’ll take the issue seriously. “I will commit to this in blood: I will not become part of that DC culture, because it’s, frankly, offensive to me the way that they’ve been talking down to the country - leaders in both parties, they think that we’re dumb.”

Jolly’s take on being a Washington insider?

“Why is it in politics that experience and qualifications count against you?” he said. “Candidates who run as outsiders simply for the sake of being an outsider at some point need to answer for what are their actual skill sets to get things done.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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