Ron DeSantis replaces campaign manager as 2024 bid falters

James Uthmeier, chief of staff in governor’s office, set to take on top role at presidential campaign

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 08 August 2023 19:17 BST
Related video: DeSantis says DC jury would ‘convict a ham sandwich’ if it was Republican

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has replaced his campaign manager as he struggles to gain traction in his attempt to take down former President Donald Trump in the fight for the Republican presidential nomination.

Campaign manager Generra Peck will now instead move to the role of chief strategist with James Uthmeier taking the top post, according to The Messenger.

Mr Uthmeier previously held the position of chief of staff in the governor’s office. The shakeup comes not long after the campaign said that Ms Peck’s position was secure. She was in charge of Mr DeSantis’s successful 2022 re-election campaign in Florida but has been criticised by advisers to the governor as well as donors after the campaign began to stumble and funding started to run out.

The campaign has had two rounds of staff and expenses cuts and a revamp of its media strategy to make the governor more available to mainstream outlets.

A number of donors and advisers outside the campaign reportedly remained unsatisfied, prompting Mr DeSantis to ask Mr Uthmeier last week if he could analyse what issues may be plaguing the campaign and how they may be solved, leading to his hiring as campaign manager.

“People have written Governor DeSantis’s obituary many times,” Mr Uthmeier told The Messenger in a statement. “From his race against establishment primary candidate Adam Putnam, to his victory over legacy media-favored candidate Andrew Gillum [in 2018], to his twenty-point win over Charlie Crist [in 2022], Governor DeSantis has proven that he knows how to win. He’s breaking records on fundraising and has a supporting super PAC with $100 million in the bank and an incredible ground game. Get ready.”

Iowa operative David Polyansky will take on the role of deputy campaign manager, leaving his post as an advisor to Never Back Down, the DeSantis-supporting Super PAC.

Ryan Tyson, an adviser and pollster for the campaign, will take on a larger role as will Marc Reichelderfer, a political operative and Tallahassee-based lobbyist.

The Florida Secretary of Commerce, Alex Kelley, will become acting chief of staff in the governor’s office. David Dewhirst, a former solicitor general of Montana and deputy attorney general of Idaho, joined the governor’s office last month as an adviser, The Messenger reported.

Mr Uthmeier and Ms Peck worked together on the 2022 reelection campaign and Mr Uthmeier has raised money for the presidential effort while serving as chief of staff.

Ms Peck told The Messenger in a statement that “Governor DeSantis is running one of the most aggressive early state campaigns in modern history”.

“Our organization welcomes the best of the best and James is one of my closest colleagues and friends — we are better for his joining and providing day to day leadership. This team is built to last and built to win,” she added.

Mr Uthmeier, 35, has no previous experience managing a campaign. When Mr DeSantis became governor in 2019, Mr Uthmeier served as deputy legal counsel, then chief legal counsel, before becoming chief of staff in late 2021.

He has been a part of the conservative efforts in Florida that made Mr DeSantis a darling of the far-right, such as banning local mask mandates, vaccine passports, and the reopening of schools during the pandemic.

Mr Uthmeier also helped orchestrate the effort by the governor to redraw the state’s congressional maps and the removal of Disney’s special legal status, as well as the institution of a six-week abortion ban, according to The Messenger.

DeSantis communications director Andrew Romeo said in a statement that “Uthmeier has been one of Governor DeSantis’ top advisors for years and he is needed where it matters most: working hand in hand with Generra Peck and the rest of the team to put the governor in the best possible position to win this primary and defeat Joe Biden”.

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