State representatives Paul Renner of Palm Coast and Jamie Grant of Tampa are considered to be the frontrunners in Friday’s election to decide who will be in line for the House speaker post in a little over four years.
The 26 members of the House Republican freshman class will meet behind closed doors Friday in Orlando to choose who will be speaker in 2022, providing the GOP still controls the House and whoever wins remains in office.
The House is currently made up of 78 Republicans and 41 Democrats. There is one seat that is currently vacant.
There are four candidates who have tossed their names into the contest. The other two are Rep. Byron Donalds of Naples and Rep. Erin Grall of Vero Beach. If elected, Grall would be the the House’s first female to be chosen as future speaker.
But Renner and Grant are considered to be the favorites, with Renner having the inside track.
Renner has an edge on his opponents having been elected to the House in a special election in 2015 while the rest of the freshman class didn’t come onboard until the following year. That gave Renner a leg-up on learning the political system and building support in his bid for the speaker’s seat.
The representatives agreed to vote by secret ballot. If no one wins a majority of the votes then the person with the least number of votes will be eliminated and the group will vote again. That process will continue until a candidate receives a majority of the votes.
Rep. Randy Fine of Brevard County had been in race but he chose to withdraw his name from consideration earlier this week. In an email to the other members of the freshman class, Fine cited three reasons for his decision: promoting party unity, wanting to spend more time with his family and rebuilding the family’s home that was destroyed last year by Hurricane Matthew.
Friday’s vote will only designate who the freshman class desires their leader to be for the next eight years. An official vote for House Speaker will still be required in 2022.