Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may receive a political gift from his fellow Republicans in the state legislature that at least two of his potential presidential primary opponents don’t have.
Legislators said Tuesday they would consider revising a state law that would require him to resign if he wanted to run for president. Florida is one of five states, along with Texas, Georgia, Arizona and Hawaii, that require officeholders to resign from their current office to run for another.
Like DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) emerged from re-election victories with national profiles and as potential 2024 primary contenders.
DeSantis has denied plans to run for president. But Florida’s newly minted state legislative leaders left little room for doubt about their reasons for considering a change to their state’s law when they spoke to reporters after ceremonial sessions during which they were formally elected to their posts.
“If you think that’s based on anything in your hypothetical, you would be right, and I’ll be very open and transparent about that,” House Speaker Paul Renner (R) said, according to media reports.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo was even more blunt: “When you think about it, if an individual who is from Florida, who is a Florida governor, is running for president, I think he should run and do it,” she reportedly said. “I really do.”
Renner pointed out that Florida lawmakers have, in the past, been willing to massage the law to suit their purposes. The legislature lifted part of it regarding federal officials in 2007, when then-Gov. Charlie Crist — a Republican at the time — was a potential future running mate. The provision was reinstated in 2018 and signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott (R), now a U.S. senator and also a potential 2024 candidate.
Crist, now a Democrat, contributed to DeSantis’ rising national stock by losing a comeback bid against the incumbent by nearly 20 points.
Resign-to-run laws are intended to ensure that elected officials don’t neglect their duties while pursuing other offices, misuse public resources for their campaigns, or unfairly leverage their position for an advantage over competitors. Opponents argue that they make elections less competitive.
Lawmakers in other states have also proven that they are open to debate on such laws under the right circumstances.
Texas passed a bill in 1959 that would permit a U.S. Senate candidate to simultaneously run for president or vice president. The statute has since been known as the “LBJ” law, in honor of former president Lyndon B. Johnson, who was up for re-election to his U.S. Senate post in 1960 when he was elected vice president.
In Arizona, the 2017 resignation of U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R) prompted confusion and competing interpretations of whether the state’s provision, which prohibits an elected official from running for another office unless they are in the final year of their term, would apply to the state lawmakers who wanted to enter the race — and if Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) would enforce the law if one of them violated it.