Senate President Wilton Simpson, a wealthy Republican from Pasco County whose business holdings include a large egg farm, filed paperwork Friday to run for state agriculture commissioner in 2022.
Based on his latest financial disclosure, Simpson is one of the wealthiest members in the Florida Legislature with a net worth of $31.5 million as of Dec. 31.
Simpson, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump earlier this year, is the highest profiled candidate to enter the race. Current Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, is running for governor.
“Wilton Simpson has done an outstanding job as President of the Florida State Senate, and I hope he runs for Florida Agriculture Commissioner in 2022 — he will have my Complete and Total Endorsement! Wilton has been a great supporter and worked hard to get many good Conservatives elected in Florida,” Trump said in a written statement.
Friday afternoon, House Speaker Chris Sprowls said he would be endorsing Simpson, further establishing Simpson as the Republican party’s candidate of choice.
“I have witnessed firsthand (Wilton Simpson’s) passion for FL’s rural lands, agricultural industry & natural resources. He’s a fearless leader & a man of integrity,” Sprowls said in a Twitter statement. “When he gives his word, you can take it to the bank. He has the makings of a great Ag Comm & already has my vote.”
Simpson, who has served in the Senate since 2012, will end his term as president with the November 2022 elections.
Running for a state-wide office while presiding over the Florida Senate will be a challenge. However, Erin Isaac, a spokeswoman for Simpson’s campaign, said the Senate leader remains focused on the 2022 legislative session. The session will start in January.
“There will be plenty of time for campaigning after the important work ahead, because for too long, too many politicians have told us to vote for them and settle for less,” Isaac said in an email to The News Service of Florida.
One of Simpson’s top priorities during the 2021 session was passing a bill that helped shield farmers from lawsuits.
Though he just officially announced on Friday for the agriculture commissioner’s race, Simpson is the head of two political committees that has approximately $3.5 million on hand as of th elast campaign report dated July 31.
The Republican primary in the agriculture commissioner’s race is currently contested, with Richard Olle Jr. and James Shaw also filing paperwork to run. Ryan Morales is the only Democrat to announce an official run.
According to The News Service of Florida, Shaw put $20,000 into the contest when he filed in March and hasn’t reported any other individual contributions. Olle hasn’t reported receiving any money. Morales has put $2,030 of his own money into the campaign and drawn $92 from four contributors.
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Steve Stewart is the Managing Editor and a contributor at The Florida Capital Star. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Sen. Wilton Simpson” by Wilton Simpson. Background Photo “Florida State Capitol” by Michael Rivera CC BY-SA 3.0.