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While All Eyes Are On DeSantis For A Presidential Run, A Florida Law Still Stands In His Way

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to run for the GOP nomination in 2024, but a Florida law would require him to resign as governor before he runs.
  • The legislature would need to clarify and amend the bill to allow for a smoother entrance into the race, but no such bill has been filed, according to the office of Florida’s Speaker of the House.
  • The legislative session began Tuesday and many speculate the governor will announce his candidacy once it concludes in May, so action on this bill is timely, Florida experts say.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is widely expected to run for president in 2024, but a state law bars him from doing so if he doesn’t resign as governor first.

The state’s legislative session began Tuesday, and a long list of bills are already on the docket for the next two months, except for a bill that would target the Resign-to-Run law, Florida’s Speaker of the House’s office confirmed with the Daily Caller News Foundation. The law would require DeSantis to resign from office before “qualifying” for a presidential run, but the legislature must clarify what the qualifications are, and the time to do so is now, Florida political experts told the DCNF.

“When is a person qualified, under Florida law, to be president of the United States?” Jaime Miller, former executive director of the Florida Republican Party, told the DCNF. “I think they will do it this session because there is a timeliness issue.”

Many believe DeSantis will make a presidential decision once this legislative session concludes in May, so it would make sense for the legislature to address this bill before then.

The Resign-to-Run law was altered in 2007 when then-Gov. Charlie Crist sought the vice presidency, but was changed back in 2018 by then-Gov. Rick Scott, once again restricting Florida office-holders from seeking federal positions without resigning first.

The legislature will “clean up” the bill’s gray area via an amendment that specifically defines what qualifying for higher office means, said Miller. He believes they will clarify that a candidate doesn’t qualify for president until they are the party nominee, which would give DeSantis some leeway in running.

The legal interpretation of the current law is that DeSantis would only have to resign if he became the Republican nominee, however, a clarification is still likely, a Tallahassee-based lobbyist familiar with the legislative discussions told the DCNF.

“I think the legislature is going to fix it to say that he would not have to resign until he took the oath of office for the presidency, and therefore, if he’s unsuccessful, he could come back and serve as governor,” the lobbyist said. “You don’t want to disincentivize a sitting governor from running for the presidency for fear that ‘if I lose the presidency, then I can’t serve out my term as governor.’”

House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo previously told Politico that they would support legislation allowing the governor to run for president without having to resign.

Neither office provided comment to the DCNF on if or when such a bill would be filed.

Miller noted that both chamber leaders have massive legislative agendas they want to push through, and doing the paperwork could wait until later on in the session. Amending the Resign-to-Run law wouldn’t be considered a major policy change, and is merely a clarification.

“It’s maybe not even worthy of a whole bill. It’s probably something that gets tacked on as an amendment somewhere, because it’s not a major piece of legislation that’s groundbreaking for the people of Florida. It’s a definition fix in state law,” said Miller.

It will be interesting to see how early the legislature takes action on the Resign-to-Run law, Ben Torpey, Republican Florida political consultant, told the DCNF. They might focus on other major pieces of legislation first so that a possible DeSantis run doesn’t take up the next two months.

The legislature might wait until the final weeks of the session to clarify this law so it aligns with an expected presidential announcement from DeSantis, said Torpey. It would be the “cherry on top” of their conservative agenda.

“He has so much control over the legislature,” said Torpey. “DeSantis gets whatever the hell he wants.”

Whether Florida’s legislature takes action on this law or not will be telling, Bryan Leib, a former GOP Congressional Candidate and advisory board member for Miami-Dade County, told the DCNF. A lack of legislation could indicate that DeSantis either isn’t running or that he will resign and run.

“If leadership’s telling you that they don’t have anything on deck, maybe that’s some tea leaves that we should be listening to,” said Leib. “If you don’t see anything within the next couple of weeks, I think people might start reading that as a signal that maybe he’s thinking he’s not going to run for president.”

The public will likely be kept out of the inner workings of a change in the legislation until it is formally introduced and on the governor’s desk, said Leib. DeSantis has plenty of allies in both chambers who will help him run for president if that’s what he decides to do.

The legislature has likely been tight-lipped about a change to the law because they don’t want to indicate to the public that the governor has made a decision to run, said the Tallahassee lobbyist. Florida has never had a president, so the legislature wouldn’t want anything standing in the way of DeSantis running.

“There’d be nothing better for the state of Florida than to have a president from here who’s been a successful governor and such a pro-Florida person,” said the Tallahassee lobbyist.

DeSantis’ team did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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