Meet Ron DeSantis’s Inner Circle

Photo credit: Politico illustration

The 2024 presidential race is showing signs of kicking into gear amid reports that Florida’s rightwing Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is laying the groundwork for a presidential nomination. 

DeSantis’s moves even spurred former president Donald Trump to lash out at him, as Trump held relatively low-key events over the weekend in the early voting states of New Hampshire and South Carolina.

DeSantis has become one of the most recognizable names in American politics today.

He has relied on a remarkably small coterie of aides to help guide all that political activity. The inner circle helps to shape his agenda in Tallahassee, assemble an extensive fundraising operation, and devise his political future. 

Now, these insiders are helping him to plot his next move toward 2024 and a collision with Trump. A dozen confidantes he leans on most include his chief of staff, well-known lobbyists, and especially his wife.

Who is in this inner circle? 

Campaign manager Generra Peck led the day-to-day operations of DeSantis’ 2022 midterm reelection campaign that saw him win by nearly 20 percentage points over Democrat Charlie Crist, a former governor. Peck had as much influence over the campaign as anyone but did so with very little attention or headlines.

Campaign senior adviser Ryan Tyson is one of Florida’s best-known Republican pollsters and has worked for GOP candidates and organizations across the country. He quickly became a key in DeSantis’ campaign operation, taking on polling and broader advisory roles.

Campaign general consultant Phil Cox was among the campaign’s first hires, joining the team in March 2021 and serving as its top big-picture consultant throughout the duration of the campaign. He is expected to remain a key part of DeSantis’ political operations moving forward.

Administration communications director Taryn Fenske has led the DeSantis administration’s messaging efforts from April 2021 to the present, a time that coincided with DeSantis’ rise through the national Republican Party. 

Capital city consulting owner Nick Iarossi and other members of his firm, including fellow Capital City lobbyist Scott Ross, played a huge role in DeSantis’ early 2018 campaign, and have been among the lobbyists closest to the governor since. 

DeSantis’s wife Casey is unquestionably the most important person influencing DeSantis’s policy and political operations. The former Jacksonville television personality is seen as perhaps the most powerful first lady in Florida political history, taking both public positions on key issues like mental health funding as well as more behind-the-scenes duties, including playing a leading role in changing the makeup at the Republican Party of Florida to bring in people seen as DeSantis’s loyalists.

Chief of staff James Uthmeier is considered the most influential of DeSantis’ three chiefs of staff and led the governor’s office during much of the time when DeSantis became a post-pandemic political star. Uthmeier has been given wide-ranging authority to oversee the administration’s day-to-day activities. 

GOP fundraising lobbyist Brian Ballard leads one of Florida’s largest lobbying firms and has been a staple in Republican politics for years. He quickly became part of DeSantis’ inner circle. 

Longtime friend and former Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt is one of only a very few that is considered to be a close friend or associate of DeSantis. 

Director of policy and budget Chris Spencer is the administration’s point person on building and developing state spending proposals, which is the lifeblood that runs through nearly every policy decision. 

Longtime fundraiser Heather Barker is one of DeSantis’s longest-running campaign aides. And mega-donor Miriam Adelson gave DeSantis’ 2018 campaign its first major boost. 

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