Gov. DeSantis endorses Corey Simon in newly launched SD 3 bid
Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, alongside Corey Simon.

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The Governor drafted Simon to head Volunteer Florida in 2020. Now, the former football star is his pick to represent Tallahassee.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has endorsed former professional and Florida State football player Corey Simon in his bid to represent Tallahassee in Senate District 3.

In a tweet sent Tuesday, the morning after Simon announced he would run as a Republican to unseat Tallahassee Democratic Sen. Loranne Ausley, DeSantis noted Simon’s experience, including as the Governor’s pick for CEO of Volunteer Florida.

“From Pompano to Doak Campbell to the NFL to leading Volunteer Florida, Corey Simon has been a leader and would make a great addition to the Florida Senate. I’m proud to endorse my friend (Corey Simon) for Senate District 3,” DeSantis tweeted.

The former All-American defensive tackle and NFL Pro Bowler is challenging Ausley as she hopes to win her first Senate re-election bid.

Simon brings name recognition and political ties, as CEO of Volunteer Florida, to a race that is within reach for Republicans. At the very least, the race could bring heartache to Democrats, who hope to stave off a red wave in November.

“Tallahassee has given my family and I the opportunity to succeed and thrive both on the field and off. North Florida is our home, and I want to do everything I can to give back to the community that has given so much to us,” Simon said in a statement Monday.

“I am proud to announce my campaign for State Senate, because our community needs a voice that can deliver access to world-class educational opportunities, safer neighborhoods and less government regulations on our small business owners.”

Ausley, who served 12 years in the House between 2000 and 2020, won her first Senate election in 2020 by 7 points, but not without a significant challenge from Republican Marva Preston. Re-election could be harder still, as redistricting added rural land to SD 3 that shifted the district 6 points in favor of Republicans. It turned SD 3 from a district that went for President Joe Biden by 9 points in 2020 into one that would have only broken his way by 3 points.

Ausley is the only SD 3 candidate who has qualified to run. Simon has until Friday to qualify, as does his possible Primary opponent, Virginia Fuller. However, Fuller has done little campaigning since filing in December and only started collecting contributions last month.

Calhoun County and Blountstown join neighboring Senate District 2 in the new Senate district map. In return, SD 3 picks up Dixie, Lafayette and Suwannee counties in the East.

Simon, a Broward County native, played football for Florida State University on a scholarship and was a 1999 BCS National Champion before being selected by the Philadelphia Eagles as the sixth overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft.

Simon’s career spanned eight NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans. One of those seasons he did not play, but he still earned a Super Bowl ring as a member of the winning Colts.

After his football career, he devoted himself to philanthropy. Simon created Corey’s Kids, a nonprofit that provided mentorship to kids within North Florida’s foster care system. He also partnered with Big Bend Community Based Care, coached high school football at Maclay School in Tallahassee and played an active role at a local church.

DeSantis drafted Simon in 2020 to be the CEO of Volunteer Florida, which administers AmeriCorps in Florida and joins Floridians looking to volunteer with organizations that need their help.

If elected, Simon could potentially serve in the Senate until 2032 before being term-limited.

While not unexpected, DeSantis’ endorsement capped off a string of endorsements from top-level Republicans. Immediately after Simon announced his candidacy, leaders of the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee issued their statements supporting Simon.

“As CEO of Volunteer Florida, Corey knows firsthand the challenges that so many Floridians face and has led the charge to connect those in need with those willing to lend a hand,” said Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican who is the favorite in this year’s Agriculture Commissioner race. “He is uniquely suited to serve the hardworking people of Florida, and I am proud to endorse such a compassionate candidate for Senate District 3.”

“A lot of people talk about what needs to be done to help our communities, but Corey Simon has actually put in the hard work to understand the challenges people face. That’s what problem solvers do,” said President-designate Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican who is expected to lead the Senate for the next two years. “I look forward to welcoming Corey to the Florida Senate.”

“Leaders are born on the field, in the arena. No one has ever had to tell Corey Simon to pitch in. He has stood up, showed up and worked his tail off to ensure those most in need have the backup they deserve,” said Sen. Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican who is in line to lead the Senate for the 2024-26 term. “Floridians need leaders like Corey Simon in the Florida Senate.”

Evan Power, Chairman of the Leon County Republican Party and the Florida GOP’s Chairman of Chairs, issued Simon his support in a statement to Florida Politics.

“Corey Simon has served us well as the CEO of Volunteer Florida. He’s a true patriot who will deliver a great commonsense citizen-contrast to Loranne. Ausley caters to the extremists on the left,” Power said.

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 [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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