Gov. Ron DeSantis’ influence in Florida politics was again on display Tuesday evening in a Tampa Bay Senate race.
Shawn Harrison, a Republican lawyer who’d been backed by incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and outgoing Senate President Wilton Simpson, quietly withdrew from the race for Florida’s 14th Senate District after qualifying for the ballot just days earlier. Senate leadership had already spent thousands of dollars supporting his campaign.
Harrison did not return calls Wednesday requesting comment.
In a tweet, Harrison said, “Sometimes events beyond our control just happen. Roll with it.”
He thanked Passidomo for her “integrity and loyalty.” His Twitter account was made private shortly thereafter.
Passidomo said Wednesday that she and the governor had a conversation earlier this month where DeSantis pointed to Senate District 14 as a competitive race and said he thought he had a candidate who could win. Passidomo said she understood but told DeSantis she had committed to supporting Harrison, and he said he understood.
“It was a very cordial conversation,” she said.
Passidomo said the idea that the governor’s endorsement is a grab for power in the Senate is “something that people are just presuming without any knowledge.”
Harrison told Passidomo that he had other things he wanted to do and didn’t need to run for Senate, she said.
Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, who currently holds the District 14 seat and is running for reelection, did not return two calls for comment Wednesday.
In a statement, Collins said he was honored to be running with DeSantis’ endorsement.
Now that Harrison has dropped out, Collins, the sole Republican, and Cruz, the sole Democrat, will move forward to the November general election.
The endorsement of Collins isn’t the only Senate race DeSantis weighed in on — earlier this year, he endorsed Rep. Blaise Ingoglia over Rep. Ralph Massullo for Senate District 11. Massullo then moved to run for a state House seat instead.