Former Senate President Don Gaetz said he respects Will Weatherford’s decision not to run for governor in 2018, but is “disappointed for Florida.”
“I spoke with Will about his decision,” said Gaetz, who presided over the Senate in 2012-14 when Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican, was House Speaker.
“One of the attributes of Will Weatherford is his devotion to his family,” Gaetz said. “I once deferred running for office until my children were older so I understand his decision.”
But, the Niceville Republican added, “I am disappointed for Florida. I still believe he would make a great governor—or senator.”
In late 2014, as both men were leaving their leadership roles, Gaetz told the Tampa Tribune that Weatherford “is the future of Florida.”
“I expect to host a fundraiser for Will Weatherford for governor or U.S. senator sometime in the next five years,” he said then. “He will be, if he wants to be, very significant on the Florida political landscape for the next 30 years.”
Gaetz hasn’t changed his mind, saying Weatherford’s “pragmatic conservatism solves problems.”
He used the example of the state budget under their leadership. In the previous two years under House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos – “both good men,” Gaetz is quick to add – relations between the chambers were strained, at best.
“Will came from his home in the Tampa Bay area all the way to me in northwest Florida, sat down in my living room and asked if we could do a joint work plan,” Gaetz said. “He told me, ‘let that be the building block for a budget.’ ”
The Legislature passed two budgets in a row based on such work plans, he added.
“I give most of the credit to Will Weatherford,” Gaetz said. “He didn’t ‘give in’ to me, but he never wanted to leave the table till we did everything we possibly could to find a solution that was best for the people of Florida.
“We did not always agree but we were always agreeable,” he added. “His principles are rare in politics … I think the world of him.”
But Gaetz said Weatherford also carries the “obligation of such an immensely talented person.”
“I’m still saving my invitation cards and Rolodex for the next Will Weatherford fundraiser. If not for 2018, then maybe for 2020.”