Promising to protect Florida’s public retirement system and to focus on creating an innovation economy, former Broward County Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring has jumped in the 2018 race for state chief financial officer.
As a former lawmaker, businessman, investor and one of the founding members of Yahoo, Ring, 46, said he is uniquely qualified for the job about to be vacated by Republican Jeff Atwater, who is resigning this summer. Atwater’s term ends in 2018, creating a rare open seat in that election for a statewide office that’s viewed as a stepping stone to the governor’s mansion.
“I understand the business aspect I’m sure as well as anybody that can run for that seat,” said Ring, who filed papers to begin raising money and is the first major Democrat in that race. No other prominent Democratic names are circulating for the CFO position.
Republicans could wind up without a competitive primary, too. Because Atwater is stepping down 18 months before his second and final term ends, Gov. Rick Scott will appoint a replacement who can be a defacto incumbent running for election in 2018.
Among the leading Republican contenders are developer and former legislator Pat Neal, Sarasota GOP chairman and state Rep. Joe Gruters, and state Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa.
The CFO is a member of the state Cabinet along with the governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner. It was created nearly two decades ago after the Constitution Revision Commission asked voters to merge the Department of Insurance, Treasury, State Fire Marshal and the Department of Banking and Finance into the Department of Financial Services.
Ring, of Parkland, said a top priority as CFO would be doing all he can to promote a stronger economy in Florida by pushing for more venture capital, more business ties with Central and South America, and more engineers in the state.
Politicians constantly talk about creating jobs, Ring said, “but that rings hollow. They’re talking about jobs; I’m talking about: How do we make an economy? They’re not focused on how they create the next Yahoo.com, the next Amazon.com.”
As a down-ballot candidate, Ring’s success depends in large part on what happens with the 2018 race for governor, as well as with President Donald Trump, Ring acknowledged. He said he will focus on what he can control.
Ring — known as a moderate Democrat while in the Florida Senate — opened Yahoo’s East Coast office out of his apartment in New York. He reported his net worth as $12.6 million, as of December 2015.
He is capable of spending millions of his own money but said that’s not the plan.
“I’m going to hold my powder, and if I need to put money in at the end, I’ll do that,” Ring said.
Herald/Times staff writer Kristen M. Clark contributed to this report.