It looks like Republican Wilton Simpson has a fairly clear path to becoming Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner.
With the qualifying period closed, the Trilby Republican faces only token opposition in a Republican Primary and under-funded opposition from Florida Democrats.
Vero Beach Republican James Shaw, whose bio mentions he owns a 30-acre composting farm and has owned three Auntie Anne’s pretzel franchises, did pay the qualifying fee to appear on the ballot. But Shaw has assembled around $37,000, with $35,000 of that coming out of pocket. Meanwhile, he’s reported more than $69,000 in expenditures but to date garnered little notice as a candidate.
Simpson, meanwhile, sits on upward of $15 million in cash on hand. About $1.6 million of that sits in his official candidate account, but he boasts another $13.8 million in the bank for four separate political committees under his control.
A clear path through the Republican Primary was not always a sure thing. Amid tension between the Florida Senate and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Office this year, sometimes over Simpson priorities, there were rumblings veteran Chuck Nadd could pose a serious challenge fueled by voter loyalty to DeSantis in a Primary.
Simpson for his part boasts serious connections within the agriculture industry as a longtime egg farmer.
Beyond a Primary challenge, Simpson will have reason to stay on the trail until November. Three Democrats have filed for the seat.
None of those include incumbent Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who qualified this week to run for Governor. She’s the only Democrat holding statewide office now, and her vacancy leaves Simpson a favorite to flip the Cabinet seat red.
Democrats who qualified for the race include Esther’s House executive director Naomi Blemur, marijuana activist and former House candidate Ryan Morales, and former House candidate J.R. Gaillot. Morales boasts the strongest fundraising with more than $10,000 in donations, but he has spent most of that already. Gaillot has raised over $3,000 and loaned himself as much. Blemur has posted no fundraising to date.