Daniel Perez the front-runner for 2024 House Speaker race

Daniel Perez
Perez has 13 members firmly in his corner and could have up to 15 backers.

The race for the 2024-26 House Speakership may be over before it even begins.

Florida Politics spoke with more than a dozen of the 27 first-term Republicans in the House and found that there was a clear leader among them: Miami Rep. Daniel Perez.

According to his GOP colleagues, who would not speak on the record due to caucus rules, Perez has 13 members firmly in his corner and could already have up to 15 backers.

One caveat: Each of these members made it clear that their vote had not been solicited or had anything else occurred that might violate Republican caucus rules.

Candidates for House Speaker need the backing of a simple majority of their cohort to become the class leader.

Palm Harbor Rep. Chris Sprowls is set to succeed current House Speaker Jose Oliva after the 2020 elections, and Palm Coast Rep. Paul Renner is slated to take over two years later.

Whoever wins House leader for the 2018 class will serve as House Speaker during the 2025 and 2026 legislative sessions, assuming Republicans maintain their majority.

Perez, an attorney, is what’s known as a “redshirt freshman” — he was elected to Miami-Dade’s House District 116 in a 2017 special election to replace former Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who vacated the seat to run in a special election for state Senate.

Perez’ special election win allows him to serve longer than the rest of his class.

The extra legislative experience enjoyed by redshirts is typically an advantage in leadership races. Renner, for instance, was elected in a 2015 special and his top challenger in the 2016 class was Tampa Rep. Jamie Grant, who had already served a couple of terms in the House.

Perez’ redshirt advantage led many to put him atop the 2024 standings. His top rival was thought to be Dover Rep. Lawrence McClure, who also won a 2017 special election.

Not so, according to sources familiar with the race. In fact, McClure is said to be one of Perez’ most vocal backers. That’s not to say the 31-year-old lawmaker isn’t facing hurdles, however.

For starters, Oliva is said to “not be particularly fond” of any of the jockeying for position, especially during the Legislative Session.

Additionally, many 2018 freshmen are taking a wait-and-see approach, including Deland Rep. Elizabeth Fetteroff, Lighthouse Point Rep. Chip LaMarca and Bradenton Rep. Will Robinson.

Republican caucus rules also make the outcome far from certain.

In 2016, at the behest of then-Speaker Richard Corcoran and Oliva, House Republicans reworked the rules for leadership races.

The new rules included a change requiring members to “serve at least one full session before directly or indirectly soliciting pledges of support.”

Oliva, in particular, has been a harsh critic of incoming members lobbying their colleagues to become Speaker before serving a day in office. That stance has some merit, considering the actions former Rep. Alex Miller, who took her ball and went home when she struck out of the 2022 Speaker race.

Given those and other reasons, the race isn’t truly on until after 2019 Legislative Session wraps. Still, Florida Politics has a long record of accuracy in Senate and House leadership races.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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