DeSantis endorsement of Simpson not a good sign for clean water

It looked like there was a real wedge between the two most powerful Republicans in Florida – Gov. Ron DeSantis and current Senate President Wilton Simpson, who’s running for state Agriculture Commissioner.

But they’ve kissed and made up.

And that can’t be good news for Florida’s beleaguered waters.

Yesterday, April 25, DeSantis endorsed Simpson’s big for ag commissioner after pointedly declining to do so for weeks. From the Tampa Bay Times:

Simpson and DeSantis publicly clashed during the regular legislative session over Senate Bill 2508, which would have would have required water managers to advocate for more water for the agriculture industry to qualify for state money in restoration projects. It was later amended to remove portions that environmental advocates had most opposed.

DeSantis has touted clean water and Everglades restoration as a top priority for his administration. He also went against the political norm when he ran for governor in 2018 and bashed Big Sugar for its role in water pollution in the state, promising not to take any campaign contributions from companies like U.S. Sugar.

As we’ve noted, DeSantis has taken money from PACs like the Associated Industries of Florida, which gets a lot of its money from sugar industry donors.

But as we reported in March, several political campaigns chaired by Simpson have taken loads of sugar money from PACs with tight ties to Big Sugar. Based on this – and also on Simpson’s unabashed support for SB 2508 even before it was amended and the worst of the bill taken out – it’s safe to say Simpson has little sympathy for the clean water cause.

It also raises the question whether DeSantis’s endorsement of Simpson amounts to an endorsement of SB 2508 itself. The bill has not yet been transmitted to DeSantis, and groups like Friends of the Everglades have mounted campaigns to convince him to veto it when it gets there.

Last week we warned that if DeSantis signs it, he’ll undermine his environmental legacy. He did indeed run “against the political norm” in 2018 and bash Big Sugar; but if he signs SB 2508 he’ll be doing a massive favor for Big Sugar, which would get water supply guarantees written into law, assurances which themselves guarantee more pain and discharges to the northern estuaries.

Meanwhile, the other Republican candidate in the race for Agriculture Commissioner, Chuck Nadd, “has called himself a ‘Ron DeSantis Republican’ and labeled Simpson as being ‘in the pocket of Big Sugar’ during an interview with CBS Miami” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Identifying with DeSantis might not have endeared Nadd to the governor, but we hoped his willingness to call out Big Sugar might have. The industry’s clout in Tallahassee has been too great for too long – and Simpson is a defender of that toxic status quo.