By Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida
Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli bowed out of a potential race for agriculture commissioner on Tuesday, leaving the 2018 campaign for the Cabinet position without a clear front-runner.
Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, comes from a family with deep roots in the state’s citrus industry and had made no secret of the fact that he was considering a bid for agriculture commissioner. Adam Putnam, who currently holds the post, is term-limited and expected to run for governor in 2018.
But in a statement issued Monday, Crisafulli said he was out of the race.
“I plan to remain politically active, but after years of travel to fulfill my obligations to the House Republican Conference and as speaker of the Florida House, there is nothing I want more than to spend time with my wife Kristen and our daughters as they finish out their final years of being at home before going off to college,” he said.
Crisafulli, who served as speaker from 2014 to 2016, said he has “no doubt a capable field of candidates will emerge who will be dedicated to the success of this critical industry.”
Crisafulli’s stint as speaker was itself a surprise, as he took the place of former Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary. Dorworth had been slated to become speaker in November 2014, but he was defeated in a bid for re-election in his district in 2012.
Crisafulli’s tenure as speaker was tumultuous at times. During Crisafulli’s first year at the helm, the House ended its session early as part of a health-care showdown with the Senate, sparking the need for special session to finish work on the budget.
The announcement Monday marked the second time in recent weeks that a former House speaker had taken himself out of the running for statewide office. Former Speaker Will Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican who was speaker before Crisafulli, announced last month that he would not seek the governor’s office in 2018. Like Crisafulli, Weatherford said he wanted to spend more time with his young family.
Current House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, is rumored to be considering a bid for governor, though he has been tight-lipped so far about his future plans.
The maneuvering is sparked in part by what could be wide-open races for the four top spots in state government. Gov. Rick Scott also faces term limits in 2018, along with Putnam and the two other Republican members of the Cabinet: Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.
Bondi is reportedly in line to receive a White House appointment from President-elect Donald Trump, while Atwater has said he won’t seek higher office in 2018. For his part, Scott is widely expected to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bill Nelson, a Democrat.