Florida GOP plots to overturn state law to make it easier for Ron DeSantis to run for president

Legislature plans to change state law that would require DeSantis to resign if he seeks White House

Published November 23, 2022 2:18PM (EST)

Republican gubernatorial candidate for Florida Ron DeSantis speaks during an election night watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, on November 8, 2022. (GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)
Republican gubernatorial candidate for Florida Ron DeSantis speaks during an election night watch party at the Convention Center in Tampa, Florida, on November 8, 2022. (GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)

A GOP supermajority in both chambers of the Florida Legislature may change a state law that would allow Gov. Ron DeSantis to continue to serve as governor if he runs for president in 2024.

Republicans House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo agreed that DeSantis should not have to resign as governor if he is chosen as the GOP nominee in the upcoming presidential election, Politico reported.

"If an individual who is Florida governor is running for president, I think he should be allowed to do it," Passidomo told reporters. "I really do. That's a big honor and a privilege, so it is a good idea."

DeSantis was recently re-elected as governor and has not yet confirmed any plans to run for president. While former President Donald Trump has announced his third bid for the seat, recent polls have shown rising support for DeSantis among Republican voters, and many leaders are urging him to join the race. If DeSantis does resign for any reason, Republican Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez would take his place. 

However, Florida law requires anyone running for a new office to submit a letter of resignation ahead of qualification if the terms of the two offices overlap. While this law was overturned in 2008 — to allow then-Gov. Charlie Crist to seek the vice presidency — lawmakers reinstated it four years ago.

The law also included a carve-out for those whose terms were about to end, which allowed then-Gov. Rick Scott, who defeated incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, to remain in office until DeSantis was inaugurated. The carve-out would not apply to DeSantis, who was reelected earlier this month.

Renner claimed one reason they are open to changing the state's "resign-to-run law" is that lawmakers have been "inconsistent" about it in the past. 

"You will find me to always try to hone toward being principled and consistent," Renner told reporters. "This is one area that, going back in history — you don't have to go very far on a kind of two-second Google search — we've been totally inconsistent on. 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."

Earlier this month, Politico reported that if DeSantis does choose to run, he will likely wait until after the 2023 session starting in March to announce, which lines up with the time the GOP-run Florida Legislature may consider changes to state election law. The 28-12 majority also allows Republicans to stop Democrats from using administrative rules to slow down the legislative process and gives them the votes necessary to override any unlikely vetoes from DeSantis.

"If Speaker Renner thinks it's a good idea, I think it's a good idea" Passidomo said Tuesday. "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. I really do."

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Mac Stipanovich, a former Republican political strategist turned Independent, said no Republican lawmakers would "have the nerve" to go up against DeSantis. "We may as well not even have a legislature for the next four years," he told the Orlando Sentinel.

DeSantis' administration was also recently praised by Republican allies for redrawing congressional maps to make them more GOP-friendly. 

"Republicans in Congress owe a big thank you to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose insistence on redrawing the state's congressional districts led to a four-seat pickup in the U.S. House on Tuesday," said Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., who may serve as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in January. 

"Florida now has 20 Republican members of the House as a result of the governor's insistence on his maps," Buchanan added. "The slim new Republican majority in the House would have been even smaller without Florida."

DeSantis vetoed the Congressional map drawn by the Florida Legislature, proposing a new plan that increased Republican-leaning seats by four, bringing them to 20 out of 28 seats. His map is credited for helping Republicans gain control of the House during the midterm election earlier this month. 

"The gain in Florida and New York made a big difference for the majority," said Congressional Leadership Fund President Dan Conston. "Florida's new map helped quite a bit."

Voting rights groups harshly criticized the map due to its erasure of North Florida's historically Black congressional district. They are now in the midst of an ongoing lawsuit to try to throw out DeSantis' map for being politically motivated. 

U.S. District Court Judge J. Layne Smith in May ruled against the DeSantis-drawn maps, citing violations of anti-gerrymandering provisions in Florida's constitution. Voting rights groups said in a statement this month that the 2022 midterm elections "were held under a congressional map that was already found to be blatantly unconstitutional by a state court judge, under Florida's Fair District Amendments."

"As control of the United States House hangs in the balance, we are once again reminded of the importance of free and fair elections," they said.

By Samaa Khullar

Samaa Khullar is a former news fellow at Salon with a background in Middle Eastern history and politics. She is a graduate of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism institute and is pursuing investigative reporting.

MORE FROM Samaa Khullar

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Donald Trump Elections Kathleen Passidomo Paul Renner Politics Ron Desantis