The crowded race to replace U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, is about to get a new, deep-pocketed Democratic candidate: millionaire disaster-recovery businessman Randy Perkins of Delray Beach.
Perkins, founder and CEO of Deerfield Beach-based AshBritt Inc., plans to file papers Tuesday for the Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast District 18 seat that Murphy is leaving to run for U.S. Senate. Perkins joins four Democrats and eight Republicans in what is expected to be one of the nation’s most competitive and costly House races.
Perkins switched his voter registration from no party affiliation to Democrat last week.
He and his company have made large campaign contributions to Republicans, but Perkins, 51, said in a Monday interview that he has always sided with Democrats on abortion rights, gay marriage, raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, health care, closing corporate tax loopholes and maintaining Social Security and Medicare.
Helping small businesses get access to loans from banks and the Small Business Administration will be a key issue, Perkins said. He said government regulations are hampering small businesses, but described himself as a “strong proponent” of increasing the minimum wage.
“Small business owners want to pay a liveable wage to their employees, but they can’t do that with all the regulations and bureaucracy,” Perkins said. “When we strengthen the American worker and the American family and when we increase the minimum wage, because we have to, we are investing in our future.”
Perkins said he married at 19 and left college to support his family, unloading freight and starting a one-man landscaping business. When Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida in 1992, he got his start in the disaster recovery and response business and built a company that he says has done “several billion dollars’ worth of work” over the last 23 years.
Perkins is expected to put more than $1 million of his own money into the District 18 race. He wouldn’t discuss specific figures Monday, but said he plans to raise money from contributors and add as much personal money as is needed. The top Democratic fundraiser in District 18 so far, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, collected $292,958 through Sept. 30.
Since 2001, Perkins and AshBritt have made $45,800 in federal campaign contributions to Democrats, including $7,700 to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 White House bid, according to OpenSecrets.org. Over the same period, Perkins and AshBritt have contributed $45,500 to Republican candidates and $94,500 to Republican committees.
Florida records show AshBritt and Perkins have given a combined $216,500 to the Republican Party of Florida, with AshBritt also contributing $100,000 to a Republican Governors Association PAC in 2010. AshBritt has given $20,000 to the Florida Democratic Party. Perkins and AshBritt have also contributed to individual candidates from both parties.
Perkins said the Republican contributions are a business expense in Florida and other states.
“From a pure business perspective,” he said, “it’s responsible for us to know who runs these states, who the governors are.”