Will Weatherford Rules Out Run For Governor
Former state House Speaker Will Weatherford said Thursday he will not run for governor in 2018, eliminating one potential high-profile candidate to replace Gov. Rick Scott.
Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican who became speaker in 2012 at age 32, pointed to his family as a reason for staying out of the race.
"I have decided that my role in the 2018 gubernatorial election should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate," Weatherford, 37, said in a prepared statement. "My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family's business. I look forward to supporting Republican candidates that share my conservative convictions and can keep Florida headed in the right direction."
During his two-year stint as speaker, Weatherford pushed conservative causes such as boosting school choice, cutting taxes and revamping the state retirement system. He also drew widespread attention, however, for backing legislation that allowed in-state college tuition rates for some undocumented immigrant students.
Scott is barred by law from running for a third term in 2018, creating an opening in the most-powerful political office in the state.
Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is widely expected to run, while Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Graham and prominent Orlando attorney John Morgan, a Democrat, have said they are considering bids. Others who have been discussed as possible candidates include House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, and Democratic mayors Bob Buckhorn of Tampa, Philip Levine of Miami Beach and Andrew Gillum of Tallahassee.
Elected to the House at age 26 in 2006, Weatherford has long been seen as a potential statewide candidate. He is managing partner of Weatherford Partners LLC, which was described in biographical information distributed Thursday as a firm "specializing in strategic advisory and capital investment services."
Weatherford's wife, Courtney, is the daughter of former House Speaker Allan Bense, a Panama City Republican who is a popular figure in GOP and business circles. Bense released a statement Thursday saying he looks forward "to seeing what's in store for Will down the road."
"For Will, I know this was not an easy decision to make, but it's a decision that is right for him at this juncture in life," Bense said. "I have no doubt that when the time is right for him and his family, Will will answer Florida's call and return to public service. His core conservative principles are rock solid and his commitment to doing what's right --- even when unpopular --- will never go out of style."
Will and Courtney Weatherford have four children.