Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is replacing campaign manager Generra Peck, ending weeks of speculation about her future leading his struggling White House bid and continuing a shakeup of his 2024 presidential campaign that has lasted for a month.
In her place, DeSantis will install James Uthmeier, the chief of staff for his gubernatorial office, a trusted adviser known in Florida as a ruthless enforcer of DeSantis’ agenda and devoted protector of the Republican’s political brand.
DeSantis’ campaign confirmed the change in leadership, first reported by The Messenger, on Tuesday.
“James 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,” DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo said in a statement.
Romeo also confirmed Peck will assume the role of chief strategist within the campaign.
The latest moves reflect a campaign still grasping for solutions to build support and recapture momentum from the winter, when DeSantis was surging off a dominant performance in his gubernatorial reelection. Facing a summer of running behind former President Donald Trump and with fundraising below estimates, DeSantis cut more than a third of his campaign staff last month and promised a “leaner” and “insurgent” operation. In his first six weeks as a candidate, payroll on his campaign hit $1 million.
DeSantis, for his part, recently pushed back against the idea that his campaign was entering a new phase. Late last month, during a swing through Iowa after the cuts became public, DeSantis said his campaign wasn’t “that different” after the changes.
“You have an intent about what you want to see,” the Florida Republican said at the time. “When it’s not there, then you just adjust and go forward, but at the end of the day, it’s a lot of it is the same stuff. You’re putting out a vision. You’re putting that in front of voters, and you’re asking them to support you.”
Donors and DeSantis supporters had for weeks urged the Florida governor to consider a change at the top of his political operation, describing a campaign that didn’t have a clear message to voters. Peck, though, was well-liked by DeSantis and his wife Casey after leading his reelection effort and the couple was reluctant to give the appearance of deeper troubles. As of two weeks ago, several top Republican fundraisers believed Peck’s job was safe for the time being.
However, it became increasingly clear to those inside and outside the campaign that Peck had lost the room. A source close to the campaign said Uthmeier was offered the position of campaign manager on Monday night.
Uthmeier was named DeSantis’ third chief of staff in late 2021 after serving as his general counsel. Unlike his predecessors, Uthmeier had little experience inside the halls of power in Tallahassee. However, he was widely seen as more ideologically aligned with DeSantis than his first two chiefs. He was an active force behind many of the cultural battles and controversial actions that made the Florida governor into a nationally recognizable figure, including the flights that sent migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard and the sacking of Tampa’s elected prosecutor. As DeSantis’ chief of staff, Uthmeier earned an annual salary of $195,848.
“James Uthmeier is the most consequential chief of staff and operative that Florida has seen in 20 years,” said Scott Ross, a Republican lobbyist and fundraiser in Florida. “It makes absolute sense that the governor would choose him to bring this across the finish line.”
Uthmeier came to DeSantis after serving in the US Department of Commerce under Trump and former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. He is a member of the Federalist Society, the conservative legal organization that DeSantis has often turned to for counsel and judicial appointments.
A spokesman for DeSantis’ gubernatorial office described Uthmeier’s exit as a “leave of absence.”
Also joining the campaign is David Polyansky, who was named deputy campaign manager under Uthmeier. Polyansky previously served as a senior adviser to Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“David Polyansky will also be a critical addition to the team given his presidential campaign experience in Iowa and work at Never Back Down. We are excited about these additions as we continue to spread the governor’s message across the country. It’s time to reverse our nation’s decline and revive America’s future,” Romeo said.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.