Brian Hughes to lead the Donald Trump campaign in Florida

Brian Hughes
But the hire of Hughes may suggest that Trump is looking to drive DeSantis from the race long before votes are cast in Florida.

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will soon name Brian Hughes as its Florida Director. The veteran Republican operative’s hiring is suggestive of Trump’s strategy and his steady grip on the state’s GOP power base even as Gov. Ron DeSantis remains his most serious challenger in the nominating contest.

Multiple Republican sources confirmed Hughes as the Trump campaign’s choice to lead its Florida operation. Hughes has also now confirmed to Florida Politics he is joining the Trump campaign.

The news comes amid a rash of DeSantis campaign layoffs and personnel shake-ups, including this week’s sidelining of Campaign Manager Generra Peck. In spite of DeSantis calling Peck’s effort “the best-run campaign in the history of Florida politics” in his 2022 re-election victory speech, she was demoted to a strategist role and replaced by the Governor’s Chief of Staff, James Uthmeier, who has never worked on a presidential campaign.

National media have already reported that many Republican members of Florida’s U.S. House delegation, most of whom have endorsed Trump over DeSantis, will appear with the former President at the Iowa State Fair, where the two candidates will speak on Aug. 12.

And if the show of force means little to Iowans, the presence of a new campaign staffer may matter even less to them. But the Hughes hire is a blow to DeSantis, an act of strategic and psychological campaign warfare that will undoubtedly impact the race in Florida.

Trump’s 2016 and 2020 General Election wins here were largely credited to Susie Wiles, a longtime consultant with an impressive record of victory in Florida. Nuked from DeSantis’s orbit in 2019 by the vengeful Governor and his wife, Wiles is now firmly ensconced in Trump’s inner circle and has a more senior role in the national campaign in 2024.

If the Governor and the former President are both still in the race next spring, the Florida Primary on March 19, 2024, will be a titanic battle between the two leading Republicans in the nation.

But Hughes’ hiring may suggest Trump is looking to drive DeSantis from the race long before votes are cast in Florida.

Across the state, Republican elites’ enthusiasm for the Governor is slipping with each passing week. While DeSantis is a popular choice among junior Republicans and conservative movement figures who have recently relocated from other states to work for the Governor or promote him on the internet, more and more of the state’s Republican establishment is making its peace with Trump as the standard-bearer a third time.

Hughes was a major figure in Tallahassee before serving senior roles in the administration of former Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who left office July 1.

In Northeast Florida, in particular, there is an unmistakable sense Republicans are indifferent at best — and in many cases furious — toward the Governor. He barely lifted a finger in Jacksonville’s mayoral race in May, leading to a Democratic upset in what had been the nation’s largest city with a Republican Mayor.

The Governor also enraged many Republicans when he made the unusual decision to intervene in a race among freshman legislators over who will be Florida House Speaker from 2028-30, long after DeSantis leaves office. He sided with state Rep. Jennifer Canady, the wife of a Florida Supreme Court justice, over state Rep. Jessica Baker, the wife of one of the most powerful Republican consultants in the state.

Tim Baker, who worked for the Jacksonville mayoral candidate the Governor refused to help, was an instrumental part of DeSantis’ first gubernatorial campaign in 2018. Baker had also worked for DeSantis’ initial congressional run in 2012, when the political novice bested a crowded GOP Primary field.

Hughes was Baker’s collaborator in these and many other efforts.

DeSantis believes he became a political force in Florida and a national GOP star on his own merits and against the backdrop of Trump losing focus and, finally, simply losing. But while Trump views DeSantis’ entire campaign as an unconscionable act of disloyalty, the Governor has a loyalty deficiency of his own.

With vengeful precision, Ron and Casey DeSantis have tried to memory-hole everyone who helped them get where they are today. The roster of Florida Republicans fired, forgotten or forsaken by the DeSanti has grown with the Governor’s rise to national prominence.

But many of the original architects of DeSantis’s political success are now aligned against him.

As DeSantis hit the campaign trail to a middling reception from voters around the country, more and more people, even top Republicans in Florida, seemingly cannot the stand guy.

And this has serious implications for how the race will play out in the state.

DeSantis calculated, correctly, that the gerrymandered supermajority in the Legislature would support him. After all, Republican legislators have one to three more years at the mercy of his whims, rewards, punishments and appointments — to say nothing of his veto pen.

Trump quickly collected endorsements from most of the state’s congressional delegation through personal contacts. Of course, every Republican elected official of any consequence is on record praising Trump effusively, and in spite of his legal troubles, few have wavered in their almost worshipful devotion to him.

The Republican Party of Florida has tried to stay neutral. Party Chairman Christian Ziegler offers praise for both candidates. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott seem far from endorsing either man, less a calculation than a resentment arising from their thinly disguised fantasies of being in the race themselves.

But it is at the level of the campaigns that the rivalry between Trump and DeSantis is so vicious and personal. Team Trump’s promise not to hire anyone who worked for DeSantis is well known. National media have reported on tensions between DeSantis loyalists — namely his wife and Chiefs of Staff — and people with stronger ties to Trump World.

These fights, which date to the earliest days of DeSantis’s first term in 2019, reveal a Governor sad and scared about his inferior status in the shadow of a much larger political force.

Whether or not Hughes and DeSantis cross paths in Des Moines, the frayed state of the Republican establishment in Florida becomes an even more poignant backdrop to the Primary race. Fresh off flights on Trump Force One and armed with briefings from Wiles, Hughes, whom an associate described as “aggressive … but not dishonorable,” will train that aggression on his former client.

And while DeSantis may wish to forget the architects of his success, they have not forgotten him.


Reporting by Jacob Lupfer. Lupfer is a writer and political analyst in Jacksonville, Florida.

Jacob Lupfer

A frequent commentator on American politics, culture, and religion, Jacob Lupfer is a writer and political strategist in Jacksonville, Florida. His website is You can reach Jacob at [email protected].


  • My Take

    August 11, 2023 at 11:23 am

    We want the gladiatorial ring.
    We want knìfe play.
    We want wet work.
    Two men enter . . .

  • Dont Say FLA

    August 11, 2023 at 12:06 pm

    DeSantis does not need anyone to drive them from the GOP primary.

    Rhonda’s got that going swimmingly, and he’s doing it enitrely on his own.

    But what the hay. Another person mocking Rhonda could potentially Make Rhonda Mocking Fun Again.

  • LF

    August 11, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    GREAT reporting by Jacob Lupfer and no, I don’t know him, personally or otherwise.

  • Remember the Titans

    August 11, 2023 at 11:03 pm

    Brian Hughes = political equivalent of Charlie Crist.

    This is a gift for Team. DeSantis.

    Where do we send the thank you notes?

  • My Take

    August 11, 2023 at 11:08 pm

    “Trump Prison Fears Mount” — MSNBC
    A strict judge.


    • My Take

      August 12, 2023 at 1:34 am

      “Judge ‘unafraid’ to jail Trump” — MSNBC
      Make him wear stripes!
      And maybe that cannon ball chained to his leg.

  • My Take

    August 12, 2023 at 10:08 am

    I wonder how much the DeSScamtis campaign pays attention to this site?
    They must at very least check headlines.

  • Kamwick

    August 13, 2023 at 4:52 pm

    Campaign manager for wannabe Mafia boss/dictator facing multiple indictments that never won the popular vote and was defeated for a second term.

    Love how grifters are grifting off the grifter.

  • PeterH

    August 13, 2023 at 5:58 pm

    It really doesn’t matter who Republicans select for their candidate. Americans are tired of the GQP preaching freedom but delivering authoritarian policies. Every single Republican candidate has expressed that they will impose a national ban on abortion!

  • My Take

    August 13, 2023 at 9:48 pm

    Fun times ahead.
    “When he [Trump] finds out who’s flipped against him, there’s just no chance Donald Trump can control himself and not comment about that.”
    Despite the judge’s order.

    • My Take

      August 13, 2023 at 10:09 pm

      Georgia — Big evidence emerging against Trump’s LEGAL TEAM !
      We want:
      Public trials
      Prison if possible.

      • My Take

        August 13, 2023 at 10:15 pm

        We want:

        RollingStone — “Trump’s ‘Co-Conspirators’ Are Already Starting to Turn on Each Other”

  • ddsasdfafasdfasdf

    August 14, 2023 at 11:21 pm

    In regards to those who constantly attack President Trump:
    There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans (OBSESSIVE Indictments of Trump!), feet that make haste to run to evil (the crazy expediency of these charges), A FALSE WITNESS (Russia hoax others who falsely accuse Trump) who breathes out lies (A total hatchet job of Trump), and one who sows discord among brothers (Rino GOP members who are too weak to stand against the opposition to Trump…i.e…PENCE, De Santis, Lyndsey, and others who bowed out with tails between legs.. very weak men. Trump is not weak. And this country needs a strong leader. We have too many weak pathetic whiny men who are easily compromised in too many positions of power. President Trump is not compromised. He’s the leader we need. A Clint Eastwood, Rocky Balboa and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington combo that will make America great again after Biden administration tried to make America END.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704