State Rep. Chris Sprowls, a freshman Republican from Pinellas County, appears to have sewn up the race for Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives with Thursday’s support from fellow freshman Paul Renner.
Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, pledged his commitment to Sprowls, of Palm Harbor, in a memo obtained first by FloridaPolitics.com.
The move decisively ends the contentious race to take over as Speaker after the 2020 elections.
In an email to his colleagues, Renner explained his decision:
“Since joining the Florida House last April, I’ve observed the prolonged struggle over who should lead your 2014 class as our future speaker. Before my election, I had the privilege to serve in the U.S. Navy, including two wartime deployments. That experience taught me that the mission always comes first, and to succeed you must fight together as one, united team.
“Our command mission is to stand up for the values of the voters who sent us to Tallahassee. After a spirited competition over who should lead your class, there comes a point at which continued division detracts from the mission we were sent here to accomplish. We have reached that point.
“While I hold Representative Eric Eisnaugle in the highest regard, Representative Chris Sprowls has steadily and convincingly won the support of the majority of your class. It is time we give him our full support so that he can prepare himself to lead the chamber as one, united team.
Eisnaugle, a Republican who represents the Orlando area, was long thought to be the front runner until reports emerged that some of his colleagues said he became aloof and disconnected from the membership after winning a majority of pledges.
Sprowls emerged as a leading Tampa Bay-area alternative soon after, with some saying Republican Party of Florida Chairman and state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia encouraged members to switch their commitments to Sprowls. Ingoglia is from Hernando County.
Sprowls, a 32-year-old assistant prosecutor, beat former state Rep. Carl Zimmerman, a Democrat and high school teacher who held one term in the District 65 seat.
The winner of the leadership race will be designated House Speaker in 2021, assuming the GOP maintains its majority in the 120-member chamber, which now stands at 81 Republicans to 39 Democrats.