Senate President Wilton Simpson continued collecting endorsements for his Agriculture Commissioner bid Thursday, when former Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran lent his campaign an emphatic nod.
Corcoran, who served as Florida’s top education official for more than three years through May, referenced his experience in that job and as a former House Speaker to explain why he believes Simpson will excel in the statewide role.
“As former Speaker of the Florida House, I know firsthand how much dedication it takes to move the needle on the biggest challenges facing our state,” Corcoran said in a statement.
“Bureaucratic red tape, complacency and out-of-touch thinking can stop progress in its tracks, but not on Wilton’s watch. As Education Commissioner, I had a front-row seat to Wilton Simpson’s refusal to accept incremental change because good enough isn’t enough for Wilton. On his watch, families are benefitting from the largest expansion of school choice in Florida history and an emphasis on every child getting a world-class education. Lots of people talk about what’s broken, but Wilton actually delivers.”
Simpson on Thursday also received the backing of the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, which represents more than 24,000 law enforcement officers. The organization’s president, Steve Zona, said in a statement that Simpson “will fill the position with strong and aggressive leadership.”
He added, “The Commissioner of Agriculture protects not only our critical agricultural industry, but is responsible for safeguarding the citizens of Florida with the Division of Consumer Services. It is a complex position dealing with fighting fraud, gas inspections, and concealed carry permitting. Wilton Simpson is the man for the job. He understands the complexities of our state, and we look forward to working with him in the future.”
Simpson, a Trilby Republican who launched his campaign in early September, is widely considered the front-runner in the race to succeed Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
Fried announced in June 2021 that she would forgo seeking a second term to instead run for Governor.
Simpson faces just one opponent in the Republican Primary: James Shaw, a former trucking company owner who now invests in real estate and runs a 30-acre composting farm, according to his campaign website.
The winner of that contest will take on one of three Democrats in the race: businesswoman Naomi Blemur, political consultant J.R. Gaillot or Ryan Morales, a marketing consultant and web developer.
Simpson overwhelmingly holds the edge in fundraising and endorsements, with nearly $2 million collected through his campaign account and millions more raised through political committees he controls.
His opponents, meanwhile, have raised less than $100,000 combined.
Those supporting his campaign include former President Donald Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Reps. John Rutherford and Michael Waltz, nearly 60 county Sheriffs, and organizations includng the Professional Firefighters, National Rifle Association, Florida Farm Bureau FarmPAC, Florida Forestry Association, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Tax Reform, Florida Family Action and Associated Industries of Florida.
The Primary Election takes place Aug. 23. The General Election is on Nov. 8.
Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics contributed to this story.