After Trump endorsement, Wilton Simpson files to run for Florida Agriculture Commissioner

Simpson had long been rumored to be eyeing the seat.
Senator Wilton Simpson, R- Trilby.
Senator Wilton Simpson, R- Trilby. [ SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Sept. 3, 2021|Updated Sept. 3, 2021

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson filed to run to become the state’s next Agriculture Commissioner on Friday, months after being endorsed by President Donald Trump.

Simpson, an egg farmer and business owner from Trilby, has long been rumored to be eyeing the job, one of the top four elected officers in state government. He instantly becomes the top Republican for the seat currently held by Democrat Nikki Fried, who is looking to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis next year.

Trump publicly endorsed Simpson for the job in May, a week before lawmakers met in Tallahassee to ratify a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe. Simpson worked for years to reach a deal with the tribe, which allows for a massive expansion of sports betting and could benefit Trump’s hotel empire.

“I hope he runs for Florida Agriculture Commissioner in 2022 — he will have my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Trump wrote. “Wilton has been a great supporter and worked hard to get many good Conservatives elected in Florida.”

Related: Wilton Simpson, the ‘Donald Trump of egg farmers’, set to take control of Florida Senate

In a Friday statement, Simpson spokesperson Erin Isaac said he “knows that the seeds we plant today — for our families, our businesses, and for our communities — are the only way to grow a stronger Florida.”

“For too long, too many politicians have told us to vote for them and settle for less,” Isaac said. “They say it’s either low taxes or great schools, either family farms or clean water, either Florida’s consumers or Florida’s businesses. President Simpson believes Floridians can have all of these things.”

Simpson, 55, is entering his final year of a two-year term as leader of the state’s Republican-controlled Senate. Although considered more of a pro-business Republican than a hard-right ideologue, Simpson’s willingness to bend chamber norms during this year’s legislative session was instrumental to passing DeSantis’ conservative agenda this year. The agenda included a contentious “anti-riot” bill and changes to the state’s voting laws.

This week, Simpson announced lawmakers were working on an anti-abortion bill for next year’s legislative session after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a Texas abortion bill would stand.

As Agriculture Commissioner, Simpson would oversee the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The department handles a range of issues, from protecting livestock and produce from invasive species, to managing wildfires, to processing concealed weapons permits.

The job comes with a $128,000 salary. Simpson reported a net worth of $31.5 million this year.