DeSantis backs Simpson for Ag Commish, throws cold water on media-fueled rumors

by | Apr 26, 2022

For months, rumors have swirled around Tallahassee that a mystery candidate secretly backed by Governor Ron DeSantis would enter the race for Florida Agriculture Commissioner, secure DeSantis’s endorsement, and easily coast to the nomination over the current GOP favorite, Wilton Simpson.

Alas, it was all fake news, as The Capitolist warned as far back as March 26, when we emailed 36,000 subscribers a link to our story with the subject line: “Wilton Simpson challenger’s trial balloon is over-inflated.”

It turns out that DeSantis endorsed Simpson yesterday, all but ending Nadd’s nascent political campaign before it even got off the ground.

Part of the wave of false rumors were fueled over the past year by the state’s legacy media outlets gleefully highlighting the slightest differences in opinion between Simspon and DeSantis and portrayed those differences as if they were anything more than the age-old political jockeying between a pair of elected leaders who are ideologically quite similar.

But Politico Florida took things to an extreme in late March when they headlined a story on those differences as “Bad Blood: Florida Republicans defy DeSantis.

Notably, the story was written by Politico reporter Matt Dixon, who just so happens to have secured a book deal to write about DeSantis at the moment in time when the governor is widely believed to be the leading GOP candidate for the 2024 presidential nomination. Undoubtedly, Dixon’s book would have been a lot more interesting if it included a chapter where Politico foreshadowed a GOP blood feud and then DeSantis went on to undercut his fellow GOP state leaders by backing an unknown newcomer to take out Simpson.

Right on cue, enter the bewildering candidacy of Chuck Nadd, whom the media (including Dixon’s colleagues at Politico) promptly seized on as “the guy” that DeSantis was backing. Many in Florida’s media ecosphere fell for it hook, line and sinker:

While it has yet to materialize, rumors have swirled about whether Gov. Ron DeSantis may prove supportive (of Chuck Nadd) after a Legislative Session in which the Governor’s Office and the upper chamber were at odds over water management and reapportionment matters.  —Florida Politics, April 4, 2022

The Florida GOP suddenly has a fight on its hands.Politico Florida Playbook, March 25, 2022

Army veteran Chuck Nadd—as expected — jumped into the race for agriculture commissioner on Monday, setting up a potentially bruising Republican primary against Senate President Wilton Simpson.–Politico Florida Playbook, April 5, 2022

But Simpson notably doesn’t yet have the endorsement of Florida’s most prominent Republican: Gov. Ron DeSantis. Nadd’s campaign shares a treasurer, Nancy Watkins of Tampa, with both DeSantis’ reelection campaign and the affiliated political group Friends of Ron DeSantis. Watkins also is listed as treasurer for Attorney General Ashley Moody. –Orlando Sentinel, April 15, 2022

Even CBS Miami’s long-time political reporter, Jim Defede fell for it, devoting an entire segment of his program to a long-form interview with Nadd.

As we warned in late March, the whole affair reeked of typical political consultant hype soaked in Tallahassee rumor-fuel and lit with a match by Nadd himself, who, it must be said, looks great on paper. Nadd clearly could be a formidable candidate in the right circumstances. But attacking the Trump-endorsed Simpson, who has gone out of his way to help deliver several conservative victories and gift-wrap them for DeSantis, and attempting to label him as not supportive of DeSantis’s agenda just rang hollow.


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