Ron DeSantis skirts Wilton Simpson endorsement, teases future Primary endorsements
Wilton Simpson and Ron DeSantis. Image via Colin Hackley.

New candidate Chuck Nadd could be Simpson's largest speed bump on the route to Agriculture Commissioner.

Gov. Ron DeSantis sidestepped the chance to endorse Senate President Wilton Simpson for Agriculture Commissioner on Tuesday, but said to look out for more endorsements ahead of the Primary Election.

Simpson, a Trilby Republican who has led the Senate since November 2020, is facing a challenge from the right in Army pilot Chuck Nadd. Nadd, a Winter Park Republican who entered the race for Agriculture Commissioner on Monday, has been the subject of speculation tying his candidacy to the Governor’s Office.

Noting his endorsement last month of Spring Hill Republican Rep. Blaise Ingoglia for Senate, the Governor told reporters more endorsements would be coming before the Primary season. Florida’s Primary Elections are slated for Aug. 23.

“We will absolutely be getting involved in some of these races,” DeSantis said.

Nadd, who has criticized Simpson as a “corrupt career politician,” in his campaign announcement said Tallahassee needs more “Ron DeSantis Republicans.” Meanwhile, there has been speculation Nadd could be DeSantis’ pick for the Republican Agriculture Commissioner nomination, pending the outcome of the Special Session on redistricting later this month.

DeSantis, who sparred with the Senate during this year’s Legislative Session over Lake Okeechobee and redistricting, didn’t acknowledge a question about Nadd calling himself a “DeSantis Republican.” And while he didn’t directly endorse Simpson, the Governor noted Simpson has helped achieve wins for Florida the last two years.

“I will say that we’ve been able to produce a lot for the people of Florida since I’ve been Governor, but particularly over the last two years,” DeSantis said. “I think Sen. Simpson has helped us in a number of different things if you look at all the great stuff we’ve been able to pass.”

DeSantis’ endorsement would be a powerful gesture. Following DeSantis’ endorsement of Ingoglia in the Senate District 11 Primary, Lecanto Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo dropped his Senate candidacy and announced he would instead run for re-election.

Nadd has leaned in on his experience in uniform as he introduced himself to the public on social media. In August, he discussed Afghanistan, where he was deployed twice, in a lengthy Twitter thread. He helped organize the evacuation of many individuals from Kabul, and played a key role in the Digital Dunkirk to bring people out safely.

The former Black Hawk pilot also found a touch of fame after video of his family homecoming appeared in a 2014 Budweiser ad that aired in the Super Bowl.

At the same time, Simpson has amassed a growing number of endorsements, including those of Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. He also has the support of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, Florida Forestry Association, Florida Chamber of Commerce and The Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Farm Bureau FarmPAC, 59 Sheriffs and the National Rifle Association.

And perhaps most critical in a Republican Primary, Simpson has secured an early endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

Nadd is actually the fourth Republican in the race to lead the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, behind Richard OlleJames Shaw and Simpson. However, he is widely considered the most serious threat to Simpson’s ambitions. Democrat Ryan Morales also has filed in the contest.

The Agriculture Commissioner position is the only statewide office now held by a Democrat, Nikki Fried. But Fried is forgoing a run for re-election and instead running for Governor against DeSantis.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at r[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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