Panhandle political heavyweight Don Gaetz is officially seeking a return to the Florida Legislature.
The former Senate president and current member of the Florida Commission on Ethics told City & State that he will be filing for the Republican primary for his old western Panhandle seat, Senate District 1. The seat’s current officeholder, Republican Doug Broxson, is term-limited next year, leaving the seat open.
Gaetz’s entrance has completely altered the dynamic of the race. Gaetz said that Broxson has already agreed to endorse him. A request for comment from Broxson to confirm is pending. The only other candidate registered to run so far, former state Rep. Frank White, has agreed to drop out and also endorse Gaetz. White had already fundraised over $160,000 before stepping aside.
White told City & State that Gaetz would have his full support during this election cycle. “Don Gaetz is a living legend for good reason,” he said. “His record speaks for itself. He has my full support, and I will do what I can to secure his victory next November.”
Gaetz said White’s willingness to endorse him and calls from supporters in Northwest Florida asking him to run are what made him ultimately decide to enter the race. “Frank White is a very well respected public servant and business leader in the Pensacola area,” he said. “His endorsement is a strong medicine.”
While Gaetz is officially in, the election rumor mill is still churning with his family. Speculation that his son, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, will run for governor in 2026 hasn’t died down. Matt in the governor’s mansion and a state senator with Don’s political heft could create a strong father-son connection in Florida’s government that’s unprecedented in recent memory.
In what looks like a likely return to the legislature, Gaetz said he would want to focus on tackling affordability issues with housing, utilities and property insurance that are impacting the residents in the Panhandle and state-wide. “If we want Florida to be the Free State, then Florida also has to be the affordable state,” he said.
With White dropping out, no one remains in the field except for Gaetz. He said he expects that to change in the coming weeks. “Northwest Florida politics is a contact sport. And I fully expect a serious, spirited campaign. I love to campaign. My family loves to campaign. I look forward to that,” he said.