Simmons is well known in Tallahassee for his eight years in the House and his four years in the Senate. He even served his first two years in the Senate as part of the leadership, holding the GOP whip position.
But Simmons, the financial managing partner of de Beaubien, Knight, Simmons, Mantzaris, & Neal, is also an accomplished attorney who was on Connie Mack's Federal Judicial Advisory Committee. The Seminole County legislator also has ties to several legal groups including various Bar associations at the national, state and county levels. He also sat on the board of trustees of Vanderbilts Law School alumni group.
With those kind of credentials, theres little surprise that Simmons is already generating some buzz about running for attorney general in 2018 when Pam Bondi is term-limited. Unlike recent attorneys general like Charlie Crist and Bill McCollum, its impossible to imagine Simmons using the post as a springboard for higher office. Simmons is no spring chicken and would be 66 come the 2018 elections.
More than a few connected Central Florida Republicans are putting the word out that Simmons is interested in following Bondi as attorney general and he would certainly be a credible candidate. Granted, he is pretty well-known in his home base of Seminole and Volusia counties and he has ties to Orange County as well. Certainly, Simmons is prominent in Tallahassee. He has some work to do to raise his profile in other parts of the state but four years offers plenty of time to do that.
Closer on the calendar, Simmons is in excellent shape for November. By the end of May, he had brought in more than $206,000 and spent less than $48,700. No Democrats are standing in his way but educator and engineer Walter Osborne is running against him with no party affiliation. Osborne has some interesting ideas about education and voting reforms but he didnt have much luck when he ran for the Seminole County School Board. Despite loaning his campaign around $6,200 in May and qualifying for the ballot this week, Osborne has an uphill fight on his hands.
Simmons should cruise over Osborne in November and can afford to look down the road. Despite being a proven winner in a key part of the state and a strong fundraiser, Simmons shouldnt expect as easy a path in 2018 if he runs for attorney general. Simmons has four years to get his name out there and build a campaign operation. Sure, its early to be looking at 2018 -- but Simmons has the luxury of an easy task this time out.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.