ORLANDO, Fla. – With Nikki Fried running to be Florida governor, the Florida commissioner of agriculture seat is open for a new occupant.
On the Republican side, two candidates are running for the seat – James Shaw and Wilton Simpson.
Shaw is a compost farmer and real estate investor who has earned the support of hard-right conservatives in the state.
Wilton Simpson is the Florida Senate president and egg farmer who has earned the support of former President Donald Trump, Republican leaders and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
The commissioner of agriculture is about more than farms. As the head of the Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the commissioner oversees a department as varied as citrus crops, medical marijuana, school lunch programs, price gouging complaints, gas pump inspection, firearm licenses and theme park ride inspection.
Because Florida is a closed-primary state, only Republicans can vote in this primary. There will also be a primary for Democrats, and you can see those candidates HERE. Learn more about what that means for the rest of the election on Aug. 23 HERE.
The winner in this primary will face the winner of the Democratic primary in the November general election, which is open to all voters.
Here’s a closer look at the Republican candidates for Florida commissioner of agriculture.
James Shaw stands for three things, according to his website:
“Good Food, Good Water, Good Guns.”
Shaw managed trucking transportation facilities in Tennessee and Pennsylvania before becoming a composting farmer in Florida. He’s also a real estate investor.
He sees food availability and fuel availability as the most important needs right now, and protecting the environment is part of that. He believes the state needs to “let farmers farm.”
Wilton Simpson of Trilby runs a large-scale egg operation. There’s a good chance the eggs in your refrigerator came from his farm.
Simpson burnished his conservative bona fides in the Florida Legislature, first in the Florida Senate, where he was first elected in 2012, and then as senate president.
Simpson supported the controversial net metering bill in the Florida Senate this past year, which would have limited the growth of solar energy in the state. The bill was supported by Florida Power and Light. Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed that bill. DeSantis also vetoed a bill on Everglades restoration that Simpson supported that critics said was beneficial to the sugar industry. Simpson had sponsored the bill.
Still, Simpson has DeSantis’ endorsement, along with the endorsements of the rest of the Florida cabinet and many of the top conservative-supporting groups in the state.