Florida Agriculture Commissioner election, 2022

The position of Florida Commissioner of Agriculture oversees the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The department is responsible for issues relating to agriculture, consumer services, energy, and environmental protection in the state. Some key duties include promoting Florida agriculture, regulating pesticides, managing state forests, and inspecting consumer goods like gas pumps and weights and measures.

The 2022 election will determine who will next serve as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture. The position is elected to four-year terms and is one of three elected cabinet positions in Florida along with the Chief Financial Officer and Attorney General. Term limits restrict commissioners to serving a maximum of two consecutive terms.

With current Commissioner Nikki Fried running for governor, the open seat has attracted competitive Democratic and Republican primaries ahead of the November 8th general election.

Republican Primary

Wilton Simpson

Wilton Simpson is a businessman and Republican state senator representing District 10 in the Florida legislature. He was first elected to the state senate in 2012 and has served as President of the Florida Senate since 2020.

Simpson owns an egg farm in Trilby, Florida that has been in his family for generations. He emphasizes this agricultural background and experience in the industry as preparing him for the role of Commissioner of Agriculture. If elected, he plans to promote Florida agriculture, work to prevent future pandemics, and combat hunger in the state.

James Shaw

James Shaw is an army veteran and Republican candidate running for Commissioner of Agriculture. He previously ran unsuccessful campaigns for Florida’s 6th congressional district in 2020 and for St. Johns County Commission in 2018.

Shaw’s priorities if elected include expanding concealed carry rights, tightening voting rules, and fighting illegal immigration. He positions himself as a political outsider and strong conservative.

Comparison of Candidates

While both Republicans, Simpson and Shaw differ significantly in their backgrounds and platforms. As a state senator and farmer, Simpson has more political experience and direct agriculture industry knowledge. Shaw aims to appeal to grassroots conservatives but faces an uphill battle against the well-funded, establishment-backed Simpson.

Primary Results

In the end, Wilton Simpson handily won the August 23rd Republican primary with 76% of the vote. His agriculture expertise, legislative record, and fundraising advantage proved too much for the lesser known James Shaw to overcome.

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Simpson will move on to face the Democratic nominee in November’s general election. His primary win makes him the clear favorite to become Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture.

Democratic Primary

Naomi Blemur

Naomi Blemur previously ran for the Florida legislature, losing a 2020 Democratic primary for House District 27. She is a policy coordinator in Orlando focusing on environmental issues and agricultural land conservation.

Blemur’s priorities include expanding access to medical marijuana, fighting climate change, and supporting small family farms. She positions herself as a progressive advocate who will bring more diverse representation to the role of Commissioner.

Jacques Rene Gaillot, Jr.

Jacques Gaillot, Jr. is a first-time candidate running for Commissioner of Agriculture. He works as a law clerk and emphasizes his educational background, having obtained four degrees including a PhD in organic chemistry.

If elected, Gaillot plans to increase food labeling transparency, provide more STEM education, and expand technical job training opportunities. He promotes himself as the most qualified scientist in the race.

Ryan Morales

Ryan Morales is an entrepreneur and farmer based in Clermont, Florida. He runs a consulting business focused on agriculture technologies and production methods.

Morales’ platform highlights regulating corporate monopolies in the agriculture industry, legalizing marijuana, and expanding hemp farming. He positions himself as a young and innovative candidate.

Comparison of Candidates

The Democratic primary field offered diverse options between Blemur’s environmental advocacy, Gaillot’s scientific experience, and Morales’ agriculture industry background. While all lean progressive, Blemur had the most political and campaign experience of the three.

Primary Results

Naomi Blemur won the August 23rd Democratic primary convincingly with 59% of the vote. Her strong showing beat out Gaillot’s 22% and Morales’ 19% support.

Blemur emerged as a rising political figure in the state Democratic party. She will now pivot to the November general election against Republican Wilton Simpson.

General Election

Wilton Simpson

As the Republican nominee, Senator Simpson will focus his campaign on his agriculture expertise and conservative credentials. He will emphasize his farming background and deep ties to rural agricultural communities.

Simpson supports key Republican stances like expanding gun rights, limiting abortion access, and opposing tax increases. He has strong financial backing from the state GOP and his influential role as Senate President.

Naomi Blemur

Representing the Democrats, Blemur will campaign on bringing diversity and an environmental perspective to the Commissioner role. She will promote support for small farms, marijuana legalization, and climate change mitigation.

Blemur hopes to energize the grassroots Progressive wing of the party. She faces a major challenge going up against Simpson’s resources and the Republican lean of statewide Florida races.

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Comparison of Candidates

The general election offers voters a clear contrast between Simpson’s conservative agriculture credentials and Blemur’s progressive priorities. A key question will be whether Blemur can expand her base enough statewide to overcome Simpson’s advantages.

Predictions and Polling

Early polls and predictions point to Wilton Simpson as the likely winner of the general election. Simpson holds a strong lead based on his previous statewide election experience, greater fundraising, and Republican establishment backing.

Blemur faces long odds but hopes a possible national Democratic wave election could boost her chances if she can get her message out. At this point, Simpson remains a solid favorite on November 8th.

Key Issues

Several major issues are shaping the commissioner of agriculture campaign:

Agriculture Industry

A top priority for the candidates with ties to Florida’s large and influential agriculture industry. They differ on issues like trade policy, subsidies, regulations, and corporate consolidation.

Environmental Concerns

Water quality, climate change, land conservation, and responding to natural disasters like hurricanes all fall under the department’s environmental duties.

Consumer Protection

Oversight of consumer goods like gas pumps, CBD products, and weight and measures standards is another critical responsibility of the office.

Medical Marijuana

Regulating Florida’s medical marijuana industry and possibilities for wider legalization is a hot topic. Candidates differ on their levels of support.

Hemp Farming

Expanding Florida’s hemp production for CBD oils and other hemp-based products offers economic opportunities but also regulatory challenges.

These issues and more will be central topics of debate during the campaign. The next Commissioner of Agriculture will shape Florida’s policies across all these critical areas.

Voter Information

Important dates and details for Florida voters to know:

  • Registration deadline: October 11, 2022
  • Early voting period: October 29 – November 5, 2022
  • Absentee/mail ballot request deadline: October 29, 2022
  • Absentee/mail ballot return deadline: Received by November 8, 2022
  • Election Day: November 8, 2022 (polls open 7am to 7pm)

Visit the Florida Division of Elections website to check your registration status, find your polling place, or request an absentee ballot. Bring a valid photo ID to vote in person.

Campaign Fundraising

As of the latest campaign finance reports:

  • Wilton Simpson has raised over $3 million for his campaign and has $2.7 million cash on hand. He has widespread financial support from the agriculture industry and Republican donor base.
  • Naomi Blemur has raised around $200,000 and has $160,000 cash on hand. She is tapping into grassroots progressive donors but faces a major financial deficit.

Simpson holds a massive fundraising advantage that will allow him to blanket the airwaves with ads and campaign across the large state. Blemur will rely more on social media and grassroots volunteers to promote her campaign.

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Endorsements

  • Wilton Simpson has been endorsed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Farm Bureau, Florida Police Benevolent Association, and former President Donald Trump.
  • Naomi Blemur has been endorsed by Ruth’s List Florida, Florida Young Democrats, Florida AFL-CIO, and over 100 local elected officials and community leaders.

These overlapping endorsements show Simpson’s support among the business community and law enforcement, while Blemur is backed more by labor unions, progressive organizations, and local officials.

Previous Election Results

Recent results for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture:

  • 2018: Republican Nicole “Nikki” Fried defeated Democrat Roy David Walker, 54% to 43%. This was a competitive race but ultimately leaned Republican at the statewide level.
  • 2014: Republican Adam Putnam re-elected over Democrat Thaddeus Hamilton and three third party candidates, 58% to 37%. Putnam cruised to victory in this lower profile midterm election.
  • 2010: Republican Adam Putnam first elected, defeating Democratic and independent opponents with 57% of the vote.

Republicans have held the position for over two decades. But with an open seat and shifting state politics, Democrats see 2022 as a long-awaited opportunity to flip the office.

Conclusion

The race for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture features competitive primaries leading up to a high-stakes general election. Important issues for the future of Florida’s agriculture industry hang in the balance. Wilton Simpson is the frontrunner, putting Republicans close to their goal of capturing all three statewide cabinet positions. But Naomi Blemur and Democrats hope they can attract enough support to finally topple GOP dominance. The race will solidify Florida’s political landscape heading into the 2024 presidential election. Turn out to make your voice heard on November 8th.

FAQs

Q: What are the responsibilities of the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture?

A: The commissioner oversees the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This involves regulating industries like agriculture, consumer services, cannabis, and guns. They promote Florida products and business interests nationally and globally.

Q: How long is the term for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture?

A: The commissioner serves a four-year term in office. They can run for re-election but are limited to two consecutive terms maximum under Florida’s term limit laws.

Q: Who appoints the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture?

A: The commissioner is elected by Florida voters through statewide elections, not appointed. They are one of three cabinet positions elected alongside the governor.

Q: Does the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture pass laws?

A: No, the commissioner is part of the executive branch and does not directly pass laws. But they do oversee implementation of laws related to agriculture, consumer protection, the environment, and regulated industries.

Q: What qualifications does someone need to run for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture?

A: There are no specific professional qualifications required beyond the basic eligibility to hold public office. Strong knowledge of Florida’s agriculture industry and environmental issues is politically advantageous.

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