The National Rifle Association (NRA) will marshal its forces for Republican Agriculture Commissioner candidate Wilton Simpson. The group announced an endorsements Monday for the sitting Senate President in his first statewide campaign.
“A lot of people talk about defending the Second Amendment, but Wilton Simpson has actually defended our right to bear arms,” said Marion Hammer, NRA past president and Unified Sportsmen of Florida executive director.
Simpson landed the endorsement of both organizations.
Hammer said Simpson’s record makes him the best candidate for gun rights supporters.
“The Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner has the duty to oversee and administer the statutory laws that govern the concealed weapon and firearm licensing process,” she said. “We believe it is vital to have a Commissioner who understands the importance of running this Cabinet office with integrity, honor, and who will not politicize our constitutional rights.”
For the last several years, the NRA has had a fractious relationship with Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democrat holding statewide office in Florida and now a candidate for Governor. Fried drew fire from gun groups for suspending concealed carry permits for Floridians arrested after participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Fried also faced criticism after she suspended accepting online applications for concealed-carry licenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In contrast, Simpson has remained in good standing with many gun rights organizations. He said he would support constitutional carry legislation, though no Senate bill was filed in companion to a House bill.
Simpson has largely remained in lockstep with gun rights groups, and said in his role as Senate President he did not allow a vote on measures that would infringe on the Second Amendment.
“Our right to bear arms is foundational to who we are as a nation and as a free people,” said Simpson. “This year, 14 gun control bills were filed in the Florida Senate and I made sure each of them never saw the light of day. It’s easy for some folks to talk about defending the Second Amendment, but I’ve actually done the work.”
The NRA wields tremendous political influence among Florida Republicans, and the endorsement could well insulate Simpson from a Primary challenge as he runs for the open office.
That could be important as Simpson leaves Session following some tension with Gov. Ron DeSantis over redistricting. The matter of redrawing Florida’s congressional lines remains unresolved even after the close of Session.