Pat Neal, a Manatee County developer and former Florida state senator, will not run for Chief Financial Officer in 2018.
Facing a self-imposed deadline of July 1 to make a decision about a run, Neal told FloridaPolitics.com in an exclusive interview Wednesday he will not be on the ballot in two years.
“I have a wonderful business and a wonderful family, and I have concluded that I cannot continue to have both if I pursue elected office,” he said.
Neal was first elected to the Florida House in 1974, before being elected to the Florida Senate in 1978. He served until 1986, when he lost his re-election bid. During his time in the Florida Senate, he served as the chairman of the natural resources committee and helped spearhead several environmental protection measures.
Neal has often been mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed Jeff Atwater as the state’s CFO. While Neal insisted he never thought of himself as a candidate, he said he did enjoy the exploratory phase.
But this wasn’t the first time Neal’s name has been floated as someone who might be at home in the CFO’s office. When Atwater was in the running to become Florida Atlantic University’s president in 2014, Neal was an often mentioned as being a possibility to replace him. The same happened when Atwater considered a U.S. Senate bid.
While it’s been decades since Neal served in the Florida Senate, he hasn’t completely bowed out of politics. State records show he has given $405,700 to candidates and committees in Florida during the 2016 election cycle. Records show the vast majority of that sum went to “Floridians for a Conservative Future,” a political committee in Florida.
His decision not to run means the race is wide open, with candidates on both sides of the aisle pondering whether to run for the seat.
Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has been mentioned as a possible CFO candidate, and Neal’s decision could make it a bit easier for him to jump in the race. The Miami Republican recently ended his U.S. Senate bid, but could be gearing up for another run at a statewide office in 2018.
Others who could be considering the office may include Sens. Tom Lee and Jeff Brandes. Much like Neal, Lee’s name was floated in 2014. Also under consideration back in 2014 were Sen. Don Gaetz, former House Speaker Will Weatherford and former state Rep. Seth McKeel.