Former Florida Speaker Not Running For Governor

By John Celock

Florida’s former state House speaker has announced that he is not seeking the governorship in 2018.

Former Speaker Will Weatherford said Thursday that he would not seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination, setting up state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam as the GOP gubernatorial frontrunner. Weatherford, 37, indicated in a statement and tweets that he wanted to focus on his family and business.

Weatherford tweeted a photo of him, his wife and their four young children saying that the photo “explains why running for governor does not make sense for me right now.” In another tweet, Weatherford said that he was focused on his faith, growing a venture capital firm he launched with his brothers and his family.

Weatherford’s decision cements Putnam’s position as the GOP frontrunner to succeed Gov. Rick Scott (R) who is term-limited in 2018. Outgoing U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are considered likely Democratic candidate for governor. Graham is the daughter of Democrat Bob Graham, a former governor and U.S. senator.

Putnam, 42, has been a likely Florida gubernatorial candidate since he left a seat in Congress to successfully seek the agriculture commissioner’s job in 2010. Putnam had served 10 years in Congress, including a stint as chairman of the House Republican Conference, before leaving for the agriculture commissioner’s office. The move to agriculture commissioner offered Putnam a chance to build up his name recognition statewide and to focus on agriculture policy, which has been a long time top issue for him. As agriculture commissioner, Putnam also serves on the state cabinet, a body of three statewide elected officials and the governor who oversee several state agencies.

Weatherford, the son-in-law of former Florida House Speaker Allan Bense (R), has long been considered a potential candidate for governor or another statewide office. He served eight years in the Legislature before being term-limited out in 2014. He was speaker from 2012-2014. During his tenure as speaker he was the youngest state legislative presiding officer in the country.

All four of Florida’s statewide offices and one U.S. Senate seat are on the ballot in 2018. In addition to Scott, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R), Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater (R) and Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) are term-limited. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will likely seek a fourth term in 2018.