Florida political predictions for 2023

The biggest surprise? The most interesting up and comer? We ask the experts.

Image by Alexa from Pixabay

We’re new, so we have no track record of prior political predictions to stymie us or crow about. Ah, the nice, clean feeling of a blank slate. 

In what will hopefully be an annual ritual, City & State asked various folks in Florida policy and politics to go out on a limb and prognosticate for the next year. Here’s hoping the limb doesn’t get sawed off. 

And for what it’s worth, we asked Roger Stone but he never got back to us. 

* What will be the biggest issue in Tallahassee for the 2023 regular legislative session? 

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando; former senior director of public affairs and communications for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida: Assuming the governor pushes for an abortion ban during an earlier special session, I would hope housing affordability will be a big issue during Tallahassee’s regular session. It’s already been marked as a priority for Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and is an issue of importance for everyday people. 

Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association’s longtime and now retired lobbyist in Florida: It will be the issue of parental rights vs. teachers and education administrators. This transcends political parties and ideological views. An overwhelming majority of parents believe that it is their fundamental right to direct their children’s beliefs.

Darrick D. McGhee Sr., chief operating officer of Johnson & Blanton consulting firm; founding pastor, Bible Based Church of Tallahassee: I believe the biggest issue will be the governor’s pending presidential announcement. It will overshadow all things legislative and be the elephant in the room, which pushes the majority party to go after all its ideals. Although I believe policy issues such as constitutional carry, abortion, ESG in investing, education savings accounts, affordable housing, water quality, all will be introduced and passed, they will all be viewed as 2024 platforming.

Dr. Ed H. Moore, principal partner, All Things Florida Consulting; former president of Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida: The supermajorities will lead to a truly non-contentious regular legislative session. It will be trains-on-time, tightly scheduled, and not be too far out of bounds. Insurance might re-emerge and the abortion issue lingers. 

Steven Schale, lobbyist with The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners; former advisor to Barack Obama and Gwen Graham: These things always take on a life of their own, but I was pleased to see both the Senate president and House speaker talk about long-term infrastructure planning. That is an issue where we typically play catch up, but between growth and sea-level rise, it is something the state needs to get ahead of. 

Christian Ziegler, vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida: I believe we will see a smorgasbord of conservative priorities and legislation discussed, passed and signed into law. One key issue for many Floridians is constitutional carry (the ability to carry a firearm without having to get a permit), which is a priority both the governor and House speaker have mentioned they would like to pursue. That will dominate headlines.

* Should Ron DeSantis run for president in 2024? Why or why not?

Eskamani: I don’t have an opinion on if he should and I highly doubt he cares about my opinion. At this point it’s more of a question regarding when he’ll file, which I assume will be shortly after his book is released. It also means many of our freedoms including abortion access will be at risk. 

Hammer: No. The last thing Republicans need is a fight between Trump and DeSantis. I'm a fan of DeSantis but I strongly believe a run against Trump will severely damage DeSantis. It would be like rolling in the mud with a pig: He'll get dirt all over himself.

McGhee: “Should Ron DeSantis run for president in 2024,” to me, really isn’t the question. I believe he has no other choice but to run. With the amount of money he’s received from donors, it is expected of him to run, and ‘no’ is not an option. He is the darling of the party and the clear alternative to President Trump. Personally, I do believe he should run for president. He’s far exceeding the reach and impact of any governor. Strike while the fire is hot, I say.

Moore: Hell yes! If he maintains his current demeanor and approach to issues he will continue to be attractive nationally. Florida is long overdue to have a major player on the national stage. 

Schale: I am 3-0 in presidential campaigns and happily retired. I will say this though: even just 20 years ago, the incentive structure leaned against running – running and losing often meant paying a price. Today, there is little reputational penalty for running and losing, so I am generally of the mindset that everyone thinking about running will probably run.

Ziegler: Gov. DeSantis is setting the standard for conservatives across the country and is definitely on the radar for many to run for president. Should he run or not at this point? I’ll let him decide, but I can say that whomever the primary voters send us, the Florida GOP will work its tail off to elect. 

* Which political up and comer(s) will you be watching in 2023?

Eskamani: I am very excited for the new freshman Democratic women of Orange County: LaVon Bracy Davis, Johanna Lopez and Rita Harris. I’ll be watching and supporting all three this year and cheering on Maxwell Alejandro Frost in Congress!

Hammer: I don't watch self-righteous, self-promoting politicians.

McGhee: There are several freshmen Republicans in the Legislature: Chase Tramont, Shane Abbott, Carolina Amesty in the House, and Corey Simon and Jay Collins in the Senate. Also, Rep. Tiffany Esposito will be impactful early.

Schale: On the House Democratic side, Fentrice Driskell – one of my party's brightest lights – gets a big microphone for the first time. On the Senate side, I think Tracie Davis is very impressive and gets a real platform, also for the first time. On the GOP side, Fiona McFarland is very intriguing. She’s shown a willingness to take on tough issues and comes from a great part of the state. Also Bryan Avila, while not new to the process, is new to the Senate. I've long thought he was a rising star.

Ziegler: State Sen. Corey Simon. Chairing the Pre-K-12 Education Committee in the Senate is a big position for a rookie. He has a great story and, with his background, has an opportunity to do great things.

* What will be the biggest political surprise of 2023?

Eskamani: Ron DeSantis gets attacked by the right as MAGA supporters rally against him in favor of Trump. 

Hammer: The biggest political surprise will be if DeSantis puts common sense ahead of media headlines.

McGhee: It will be twofold: 1) How well the Legislature’s two presiding officers work together with minimal friction, and 2) The amount of red meat policies that get passed because of supermajorities. I anticipate the governor placing pressure on the Legislature to think big, go big, deliver big.

Ziegler: Not necessarily a big surprise, but more of a rude awakening for the radical left in response to their agenda: The legislative supermajority and our “super” conservative governor coming off a nearly 20 point win will showcase just how red our state has become and how aggressively voters have fled the Democrat Party. In terms of voter registration, Republicans will continue to grow and we will also see independents/no party affiliated voters overtake Democrats in share of registration in individual counties.

* Will Twitter still have the same importance to Florida politics in 2023 as it does today? 

Eskamani: Twitter is only as powerful as you let it be; the most important thing to remember is no social media platform is real life. I hope people will get off their phones and talk to one another more in 2023.

McGhee: Yes. The dependence on Twitter is too demanding for sudden change to occur. Plus, the ability for the politician to take his or her message directly to the people in real time makes Twitter remain important.

Schale: It will remain the dominant news-breaking platform until something replaces it. Journalists, legislators and hacks all live on it, and right now there isn't even a close second. 

Ziegler: Yes. Twitter is the digital public square and improvements made by Elon Musk to protect free speech will help continue to make Twitter an important platform for discussion.

Answers have been lightly edited for clarity.