Melissa McKinlay announces she won’t run for Agriculture Commissioner
Image via The Palm Beach Post.

McKinlay had been floated as a possible Democratic candidate to challenge likely GOP nominee Wilton Simpson.

Outgoing Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay announced Monday she is not running to be the state’s next Agriculture Commissioner, according to a statement obtained by Florida Politics.

“As I finish my last term this year, friends keep asking me what I am doing next,” McKinlay said. “While I am certainly not closing the door on serving the public in the future, I have made one decision — I will not be running for Commissioner of Agriculture in November.”

McKinlay had been floated as a potential Democratic candidate to replace Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is pursuing the Democratic nomination for Governor. Fried is the only Democrat to win a statewide election in Florida in recent cycles, and Democrats have been looking for a strong candidate to match up against outgoing Senate President Wilton Simpson, the likely GOP nominee in the Agriculture Commissioner contest.

In the statement explaining her decision, McKinlay cited the workload in her final year on the Palm Beach County Commission, along with other roles she holds, as reasons to opt against running a statewide campaign.

“Right now, Palm Beach County is deciding how to spend millions in federal infrastructure dollars, facing a dangerous affordable housing shortage, and combatting a relentless overdose crisis all while figuring out how to adjust to a sad new normal handed to us by COVID,” McKinlay said.

“My colleagues across the state also unanimously elected me to serve in leadership roles at both the Florida and National Association of Counties, tremendously important roles as budget decisions are being made. These are roles I committed to serving. Right now, it is more important for me to be in my seat at the table helping to guide these conversations. Being locked away in a closet making fundraising calls for the next ten months is not what my constituents expect of me right now.”

McKinlay is a respected member of the Palm Beach County Commission and, facing term limits in 2022, was seen as a strong contender to step up to a state-level job.

Her decision adds to Democrats’ degree of difficulty in holding onto the Agriculture Commissioner position. Simpson still has to get through a GOP Primary, but former President Donald Trump has already endorsed him, and Simpson has unsurprisingly been an incredibly strong fundraiser. He began the year with more than $12 million already on hand to spend this cycle.

While McKinlay is turning down the chance to mount a statewide bid this cycle, she offered appreciation to those who urged her to run.

“I would like to thank those that reached out encouraging me to take on this race. But, mostly to my family, especially my kids, who were willing to endure a grueling campaign trail if I decided to take that path,” McKinlay said. “That kind of love and support is all I need right now.”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


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