It is widely assumed that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will run for president in 2024, but a state law prohibits him from doing so unless he resigns first.
Florida’s Speaker of the House has announced that several bills are already on the agenda for the next two months, except for a measure aimed at reforming the Resign-to-Run statute. Florida political experts told the DCNF that the rule would compel DeSantis to retire from office before “qualifying” for a presidential bid. Still, the legislature must now clarify what the conditions are.
One issue – when is a person under Florida law qualified to be president of the United States? Former Florida Republican Party executive director Jaime Miller believes this needs clarification. Due to timing concerns, he believes they will complete the task this session.
Many assume that DeSantis will make a presidential decision after the current legislative session closes in May. Thus it would be prudent for the legislature to act on this issue before then.
The Resign-to-Run rule was amended in 2007 when then-Gov. Charlie Crist ran for vice president, but it was changed again in 2018 by then-Gov. Rick Scott; Scott once again required Florida officeholders to retire before pursuing federal offices.
Miller stated that the legislature would “clarify” the bill’s ambiguity through an amendment that clarifies what qualification for higher office entails. He believes they would explain that a candidate is only eligible for the presidency once they are the party’s nominee, allowing DeSantis to run up to a point.
The legal interpretation of the present statute is that DeSantis would only need to retire if he became the GOP nominee. However, a clarification is anticipated, according to a Tallahassee-based lobbyist with knowledge of the legislative proceedings.
According to Lobbyist, he believes the legislators would fix it so that he would not have to quit until he took the oath of office for the presidency; thus, if he fails, he could return to serve as Governor. You don’t want to discourage a sitting governor from running for president out of fear that “if I lose the presidency, I won’t be able to complete my time as governor'”
Previously, House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said they supported legislation to allow the Governor to run for president without resigning.
Miller said that the leaders of both chambers have large legislative agendas they wish to enact and that the paperwork may be completed later in the session. Modifying the Resign-to-Run statute would not be deemed a significant shift in policy but rather a clarification.
According to Miller, it may not even merit a single dollar. It will likely be included as an amendment, given it is not a breakthrough piece of law for Florida residents, and it’s a change to the term under state law.
It would be fascinating to watch how quickly the legislature acts on the Resign-to-Run measure, Ben Torpey, a political strategist for the Florida Republican Party, told the DCNF. So that a potential DeSantis campaign doesn’t consume the next two months, they may prioritize other big legislation first.
Torpey stated that the legislature may wait until the session’s closing weeks to clarify this statute to correspond with an expected presidential statement from DeSantis. That would constitute the “icing on the cake” of their conservative goal. Torpey stated DeSantis receives whatever the devil wants because he has so much sway over the legislature.
Whether Florida’s legislature takes action on this statute or not will be revealing, Bryan Leib, a former Republican Congressional Candidate and advisory board member for Miami-Dade County, told the DCNF. The absence of legislation might imply that DeSantis is not running or will quit and run.
Leib said if leadership tells you that they have nothing in the works, this may be a sign that one should pay attention to the “tea leaves.” “If you don’t hear anything over the next few weeks, he believes that people would interpret that as a hint that he’s considering not running for president.
A legislative amendment will likely remain a secret until it is officially introduced and on the Governor’s desk. If he decides to run for president, DeSantis has many allies in both houses who would support him.
According to the Tallahassee lobbyist, the legislature has likely been tight-lipped about modifying the statute because they don’t want to signal to the public that the Governor has decided to run.
Florida has never had a president born in the state, and thus the legislature would not want anything to prevent DeSantis from running. (Trump later moved his residency to FL, and Andrew Jackson was Florida’s first governor before becoming president. However, neither was born in Florida.)
Lobbyists from Tallahassee said that having a president from here who is a successful governor and so pro-Florida is the best thing for the state.
The DeSantis campaign did not react quickly to the DCNF’s request for comment.