By: Jeff Henderson
Even though he is now out of office, Will Weatherford showed this week that he has no intention of heading toward the sidelines.
Only 35, Weatherford just finished eight years in the Florida House including spending 2013 and 2014 as speaker. It’s no secret that Weatherford has ambitions for even higher office and, with youth on his side, his star could go far. But his path up is blocked by several other Republicans and, after being term-limited, last year Weatherford had no immediate office to target. The question turns now to how Weatherford can remain in the public eye while getting ready for 2018 or whenever he decides to run again.
Part of that became evident this week. Earlier this week, Weatherford announced the formation of Weatherford Partners — formed with two of his brothers including former FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford — to tackle capital investment. Later in the week, the former House speaker also joined the board of directors of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, an organization his father-in-law Allan Bense has ties to. On Thursday, Weatherford announced he was joining the board of directors of Sunshine Bancorp. Clearly a busy week for Weatherford.
During his time in Tallahassee, Weatherford generally went right on the issues including public pension reform, opposing Medicaid expansion and backing school choice. But Weatherford also went all in on expanding state tuition for illegals, often being farther out in front on the issue than Rick Scott and Don Gaetz.
Weatherford is still politically active with groups like the Republican State Leadership Committee. With ties to Pasco County and Bense’s connections in the stronghold, Weatherford does have enough of a geographic base for future tries at elected office.
But Weatherford is hampered by a crowded bench of Republicans who could be trying to move up the ladder in the years to come. Adam Putnam — not that much older than Weatherford — and Jeff Atwater are proven winners at the statewide level. Conservatives and tea parties could bolt Weatherford due to too many connections to the business leadership, the GOP establishment and in-state tuition.
In short, Weatherford can’t afford to sit on the sidelines and sit on company boards if he wants to keep his star in the ascendant. He’ll need to stay politically active. The Florida Chamber position shows Weatherford is aware of that but he’ll need more to stay in the public eye. Regardless, Weatherford is charismatic and dynamic. Even in his new posts, Weatherford remains one to keep an eye on in the months ahead.