Advertisement

Meet the Tampa entrepreneur running a long-shot White House campaign

Air Force veteran David Stuckenberg, who runs a startup focused on clean water technology, announced his bid this fall.
 
David Stuckenberg, a co-founder of water technology company Genesis Systems, speaks during an event to announce the move of the company’s corporate headquarters to Tampa in 2021. Stuckenberg, who lives in Tampa, in October announced a long shot campaign for president in 2024.
David Stuckenberg, a co-founder of water technology company Genesis Systems, speaks during an event to announce the move of the company’s corporate headquarters to Tampa in 2021. Stuckenberg, who lives in Tampa, in October announced a long shot campaign for president in 2024. [ Times ]
Published Dec. 26, 2023

David Stuckenberg was just in Washington, D.C., meeting with members of the local Republican Party. The district has 20 delegate votes up for grabs in the 2024 presidential election, and the Tampa entrepreneur-turned-presidential candidate wanted to make his case for each one.

Washington, D.C., isn’t Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina — though he’s hitting all those key early primary states, too. But to build any steam for his long shot presidential bid, he’s employing what he calls a “’Moneyball’ strategy,” looking for edges in places other candidates won’t.

“Why would someone who’s not a politician be interested in doing this, going through this punishing grind?” he said. “That’s the question of the hour.”

Stuckenberg, who filed paperwork to run for president in October, isn’t just going through the motions. He’s one of two dozen Republicans on the ballot in New Hampshire, and one of a handful on the ballot in South Carolina and more than 15 other states, and he plans to be on five more by Dec. 31. He will not be on Florida’s primary ballot, but he plans to campaign across Iowa until that state’s caucuses on Jan. 15.

The 42-year-old father of five is the co-founder and CEO of Genesis Systems, a clean water technology startup that moved from Kansas City to Tampa in 2021 and has since attracted national funding. He’s also an Air Force Reserve major who has held advisory and task force positions with agencies including the departments of State and Defense.

He’s a long shot, to be sure, but he believes there’s a lane for his candidacy. He said former President Donald Trump “has been running for nine years straight,” and wouldn’t be able to “put together a cohesive cabinet of talented men and women.” He said he respects Gov. Ron DeSantis, but has problems with the state’s property insurance crisis. He sees former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley as pretentious, as well as a “tremendous advocate” for Chinese investment.

“None of the candidates on the left or the right are offering new ideas for the United States,” he said. “It’s the same old trope-y, political, ‘round-and-’round-the-tree, same old ideas over and over again. What we need for the nation is a turnaround team of ‘Avengers’-level talent — young mavericks who are extraordinarily gifted Americans, who can come in and say, ‘My agenda is the United States, it’s all of us, it’s our success.’”

David Stuckenberg posed for a portrait on March 16, 2016, at Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands in Tampa.
David Stuckenberg posed for a portrait on March 16, 2016, at Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands in Tampa. [ Times (2016) ]

Stuckenberg is anti-abortion, anti-Big Government and hawkish on national security, particularly as it relates to China. He also supports research into renewable, wind and nuclear energy. And he’s proposed slashing taxes by reducing tax brackets by 33% and eliminating the inheritance tax.

In a recent conversation, Stuckenberg talked about his bid, his politics and the race’s front-runners. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

You’ve circled public policy for years, you’ve been in the military. But have you ever considered entering an election on any level before now?

I have not. But we’re about to lose the country. We have what I would describe as clowns to the left and jokers to the right, as the song said. And here you and I are, we the American people, stuck in the middle. I think that song captures well what’s going on.

One theory you’ll hear whenever an entrepreneur with little political experience, like Vivek Ramaswamy or even Donald Trump, enters a presidential race is they’re doing so less to win than to grow their brand and business. Genesis Systems has been seeking funding and national attention over the last two years. Why wouldn’t that theory also apply to you?

I’m not just a business person. Business is something I do on the side. What I do is, I work to solve grand challenges. What is the business that Genesis is focusing on? It’s solving the grand challenge of global water scarcity. The world’s running out of water. There’s a high demand for our product. I don’t need personal name recognition. I’m not interested in that. My getting in this race, if anything, jeopardizes my own safety, my privacy and my livelihood as a business person. Because people may not like that. So what do I have to lose?

David Stuckenberg, co-founder of Genesis Systems, speaks during an event to announce the move of the company’s corporate headquarters to Tampa in 2021.
David Stuckenberg, co-founder of Genesis Systems, speaks during an event to announce the move of the company’s corporate headquarters to Tampa in 2021. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Do you think of yourself as moderate? Do you think of yourself as libertarian? How would you describe your positions?

I come from a conservative home. We know what it is to be a Republican. But at the same time, I’ve seen both parties go to war with each other, and leave honor and integrity behind. We have to kind of reset the tone. And that starts with a leader who’s willing to say, ”Not everyone on the left is evil, and not everyone on the left is wrong. And not everyone on the right is right, and not everyone on the right is wrong.” It comes from 21 years of working across the aisle with people from all walks of life. So I would say, yes, I am moderate. I’m just trying to be a reasonable, sensible American.

Who do you believe won the 2020 election?

I think Biden won the election. Now, I think there were irregularities that still have not been explained. And so there is a good number of the U.S. electorate who still does not believe that Biden is the legitimate president. I reject that. He is the legitimate commander in chief.

You are an extreme underdog in the race. What’s a best-case scenario for your campaign?

I think what’s most likely to happen is that New Hampshire’s sophisticated electorate is going to say, “You’ve got the right stuff. You are a candidate that needs to be seriously considered.” I think we’re going to have a very strong showing there. Everybody’s bored with the other candidates. What we’re going to give them is an opportunity to look at something very afield from anything else they’ve seen, and they are excited about it. It takes about one minute of conversation to move most voters over from some of the folks that they’ve committed to, because they’re not that committed. They’re still on the hunt.