Weatherford plots his political future, with a wary eye on Trump
Donald Trump's outsized presence on the political landscape will shake up Florida in a multitude of ways, including redefining the field of contenders for governor in 2018. That's clear after a talk with Will Weatherford, the former House speaker who left office in 2014.
Will he run for governor?
"I tell people I'm not running towards it, but I'm not running away from it," Weatherford said. "I'm really focused on our company and our business. My guess is sometime after the election, I'll have to make a decision internally."
Weatherford supported Jeb Bush for president and said he has no plans to support Trump, a "very divisive" figure and fear-mongerer.
But if Trump wins the White House, it will be viewed as a validation of his slash-and-burn style with its personal insults, and that would change the political tone in the country. "It's been very negative," Weatherford said. "That is much less appealing to me."
Put another way, it might be better for Weatherford if Democrat Hillary Clinton wins in November. (Remember too that presidents' popularity ratings often nosedive in the first midterm following their election).
More than two years from the 2018 primary, the early front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Putnam and Weatherford are friends who worked together on issues such as redirecting energy revenue to salvage the program that pays for school construction. But Weatherford said their friendship won't deter him from running.
Weatherford, 36, has four children and the youngest is a year-and-a-half old, and a race for statewide office is a 24/7 commitment that would distance him from his family for a very long time. "It's all-consuming, so you have to factor that in, and the impact on your family," he said.
Weatherford and two of his brothers run Weatherford Partners, a venture capital and consulting firm that advises companies on building profitable "business-to-business" relationships. His office on the 23rd floor of the Regions Bank in downtown Tampa has a panoramic view of the city's downtown.
He's on the board of the Florida Chamber and the Republican State Leadership Committee, a 527 group that helps down-ballot candidates (former state attorney general Bill McCollum is chairman) and said he plans to attend the Republican convention in Cleveland "for a day or two."
Weatherford's endorsement is still a prized commodity in local legislative races, but he's aware that for a former Tallahassee politician, fame is extremely fleeting.
"There's no question that the longer you're on the shelf, politically speaking, the more dust accumulates and the harder it is to come back," he said. "Conversely, I also believe that politics is about ideas ... I still to this day don't believe that you have to have the most money or the most name ID to be successful."