Patronis to run for full term as state CFO

CFO Jimmy Patronis
CFO Jimmy Patronis (Associated Press)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced Wednesday he will run for the position in 2018.

The announcement by the former state legislator and Panama City restaurateur came about four months after Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to the Cabinet post after the resignation of former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Patronis,a Republican who also served a stint on the Florida Public Service Commission, issued a statement early Wednesday that asked for support and highlighted his association with Scott, who also is expected to be on the ballot next year in a run for the U.S. Senate.

“Gov. Rick Scott appointed me to this post in June; and I continue to work closely with him to guard your state tax dollars from fraud and abuse, and make sure government regulations are fair and predictable for Florida job creators,” Patronis said in the announcement. “I get up every day excited to do this job. I love what I do. I get to protect the hard-earned money of Floridians and help the governor in his mission to create more jobs.”

Patronis' campaign is receiving guidance from Melissa Stone, Scott's former chief of staff who remains a top political adviser.

The Florida Democratic Party criticized Patronis as a “yes man” and an example of Scott's “cronyism.”

“Floridians are facing stagnant wages, rising insurance rates. They need somebody that is an expert in these areas in that position,” Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman Johanna Cervone said. “Instead, Rick Scott has not just appointed somebody who is just going to say `yes' to whatever he wants, but has given him the space to be able to run for office. (Patronis) would never have had the qualifications to run for the office in the first place, but Rick Scott has given him that room.”

Patronis, who served four terms in the Florida House, is part of a family that has long run the landmark Captain Anderson's Restaurant in Panama City.

As of one of Scott's early backers in 2010, Patronis has been appointed by the governor to three major state roles.

In his current job, Patronis replaced Atwater, who left the $128,972-a-year Cabinet position to take a job as a vice president at Florida Atlantic University.

Patronis came to the Cabinet from the Public Service Commission, where he served in a $131,036-a-year job after being tapped by Scott in 2014.

The governor also placed Patronis on the state Constitution Revision Commission, the panel charged with the once-every-20-years task of suggesting changes to the state Constitution. Patronis stepped down from the commission as he was appointed chief financial officer.

While he formally entered the contest Wednesday, Patronis had already been taking steps toward running. His political committee “Treasure Florida” raised $222,750 in August and September, with October numbers to be filed this month.

Patronis is the second Republican to enter the contest, joining Antoanet Iotova of Hollywood. Also expected to enter the race is Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican and former Senate president, who had nearly $2.1 million in his political committee, “The Conservative,” as of Sept. 30.

Democrat Jeremy Ring, a former state senator and former Yahoo executive, is also in the contest. Ring issued a statement Wednesday welcoming Patronis to the race, calling him a “great friend” and noting that the Republican was one of the first people to welcome him to the Legislature.

“I look forward to these next 12 months and the opportunity for voters to get to know each of us and our backgrounds,” Ring said in the statement. “Once they do, I have no doubt that they will see that my background makes me uniquely qualified to be Florida's next CFO and will be excited about my campaign's vision for a more innovative and diverse economy and our fresh approach to governing.”

Ring, from Broward County, had raised a total of $159,373 and loaned $100,000 to his campaign account as of Sept. 30, of which $61,802 had been spent. Meanwhile, his political committee had $115,173 on hand at the end of September.