Let the Florida governor run for president | Editorial
It’s time to tidy up Florida law to make it clear that a sitting governor can run without resigning.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition on Nov. 19 in Las Vegas.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition on Nov. 19 in Las Vegas. [ JOHN LOCHER | AP ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Dec. 2, 2022

It’s a good bet that Gov. Ron DeSantis will run for president. If he does, Florida law is vague on whether he would need to resign as governor — and when he would need to do it. Florida lawmakers should end any doubt by passing a law that allows the governor to run without resigning. It’s an easy tweak and the right thing to do.

Over the years, the Florida Legislature has waffled on whether state politicians running for federal office must resign or not. In 2007, lawmakers cleared the way for then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist to run as a possible vice presidential candidate without handing in his keys to the Governor’s Mansion. Four years ago, lawmakers removed the exception for presidential and vice presidential candidates, saying they must resign their state position within 10 days of qualifying for the federal office. But presidential candidates don’t qualify for office in the same way as other federal candidates, which potentially leaves the legal door ajar for DeSantis to run without resigning. Some legal analysts also say that a candidate can run for federal office without resigning as long as they aren’t also running for reelection to their state post. DeSantis fits that description as term limits bar him from running for a third term as governor.

The law is murky, but it shouldn’t be. There’s no need for protracted litigation or political counterpunching. Just clear up the law to say the governor — any Florida governor — can run for federal office without resigning. And then leave it that way, regardless what party at the moment holds the gubernatorial reins.

Yes, the strong majority of Republicans in both the state House and Senate could change the law for DeSantis and then change it again sometime in the future to prevent a Democratic governor from following the same path. But, that’s why we have elections. Voters can call “Hypocrisy!” and kick the offenders to the curb.

DeSantis has already spent a great deal of time out of state campaigning for other candidates, and yet he has still found time to be governor. A competent chief executive should be able to manage that trick. So what is the law’s real purpose? Further, the majority of Florida voters understood that DeSantis might run for president and they still overwhelmingly elected him to a second term as governor a few weeks ago.

Love DeSantis or not, he’s a legitimate contender for the Republican presidential nomination and to take on President Joe Biden or whomever the Democrats choose. A poorly written law should not deny voters the choice. In the spring legislative session, state lawmakers should clean up the law and make it clear a governor can run for federal office without resigning.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.