Democrat Jared Moskowitz, serving first term in Congress, considers long-shot run for Florida governor in 2026

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U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz’s lifelong dream, achieved in a 2022 election victory, was to go to Congress. Now, even before winning his first reelection campaign, he’s contemplating giving it up to take a shot at a much bigger office: Florida governor.

For now, it’s preliminary talk. But it was fueled by Moskowitz himself — to a wide audience of political insiders and observers.

“I’m not ruling it out,” the Democratic congressman told Politico on Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol. “I’m looking at it but it’s super early.”

That comment, along with his self assessment that a key part of his background could be a plus, is attracting attention in the political world.

“It’s plausible, sure,” said Kevin Wagner, a political scientist at Florida Atlantic University. “But it would be challenging.”

It’s not clear how seriously Moskowitz is considering a statewide candidacy. He didn’t completely close the door on Wednesday, but he also didn’t push it wide open.

Moskowitz’s first imperative — whether he wants a long career in Congress or wants to take a chance on a statewide run — is winning reelection in 2024. He wasn’t available for comment on Wednesday, but his spokesperson sought to somewhat downplay the comments about a gubernatorial candidacy.

Spokesperson Dylan Smith said by text his boss “was answering the question from the Politico reporter with a question.”

“Right now, the congressman is focused on his re-elect for Congress,” Smith said. He acknowledged the Democrats statewide disadvantage in registered voters, and highlighted ways Moskowitz might be positioned to overcome that disadvantage in a statewide race.

“Registered Republicans now outnumber Democrats by over 800,000 — for a Democrat to win they will have to show they can work across the aisle. Congressman Moskowitz has proven that with both passing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school safety bill, his defense of Israel and as the Emergency Management Director in a Republican administration,” Smith said.

That refers to the law Moskowitz was instrumental in passing in the state Legislature after the 2018 massacre at the Parkland school and his time as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ director of emergency management.

Moskowitz made a similar point to Politico, explaining that Democrats want to find a candidate “who could win a state where there are now more registered Republicans than Democrats.”

“What Democrat can win that?” Moskowitz said. “Maybe a Democrat who worked for a Republican can win that.”

In Washington, Moskowitz has aggressively pushed the Democratic side in political investigations run by the Republican majority, and has verbally sparred with some of the GOP’s top members.

He has also positioned himself as a centrist, willing to work with Republicans. One result: He has the lowest rating of any Florida Democrat in scoring by Progressive Punch, which operates a database of congressional voting records from a progressive perspective. He was the only state Democrat who got an “F” from the group.

Tough race

Running for an important statewide office, such as governor or U.S. Senate, is appealing for many ambitious politicians. And serving in Congress, which many say is largely dysfunctional and unable to achieve much of significance, and requires a lot of travel, is draining. (It’s worse for members of the minority party, regardless of which side is in control.)

The two previous members of Congress from the territory Moskowitz represents, U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler and Ted Deutch, both Democrats who spent years in Congress, left early to take other jobs.

But winning a statewide election for governor, or any other office, would be difficult for a Democrat in 2026. And impressing voters throughout the state would be even more challenging for someone from South Florida, which is viewed as foreign territory by large segments of the population.

Members of Congress often are, but not always, relatively well known in their home territory. But in Florida, which is a large state with 28 House districts and many large media markets, they often aren’t well known elsewhere. It’s easier to overcome that hurdle and develop a statewide presence in a smaller state.

“Part of the challenge running for governor is you have to get a message to a very large state, which has multiple media markets and very different types of voters, and so often when you’re looking for a gubernatorial candidate, you’re looking for someone who has demonstrated an appeal that is broad across the state,” Wagner said.

It’s been three decades since Florida elected a Democratic governor. And in the five election cycles since 2012, Republicans have won 16 statewide elections. Democrats won just one, for state agriculture commissioner in 2018. (In the five previous election cycles, Republicans won 10 and Democrats won five.)

At 43, Moskowitz could run statewide sometime in the future, especially if Democrats regain some of the ground they’ve lost in recent elections.

Other candidates

There are other interested candidates.

One wrinkle: Moskowitz’s best friend, state Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Miami Gardens, is also thinking about running for governor.

“Congressman Moskowitz and I are dear friends. I think he’d make a great governor. Right now I’m focused on my job as a state senator. There is a lot of work to be done in Florida before we can start talking about an election more than 2 years away,” Jones said Wednesday via text.

“We need to solve the insurance crisis we have in Florida. We need to support our teachers and educators. We need to make Florida an affordable place to live where mothers and fathers don’t need to work two full time jobs to support their families. I look forward to helping solve those issues and will do so in any position the people of Florida elect me to,” Jones added.

Another possible candidate is state Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Miami-Dade County Democrat who represents most of eastern Broward. He becomes Senate Democratic leader after the 2024 elections. Also a potential candidate is state Rep. Fentrice Driskell of Tampa, who is the Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives.

All have a similar challenge: Like Moskowitz, Jones, Driskell and Pizzo are well known in the political world, but come from district’s that represent just a fraction of the state’s population.

Congressional district

Moskowitz was elected in 2022 to represent the 23rd Congressional District, which takes in northern Broward, and much of the coast extending south through most of Fort Lauderdale, plus part of southern Palm Beach county.

Independent, nonpartisan analysts rate Moskowitz’s chances at reelection this year as so high that the contest doesn’t even make the lists of races to watch from Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Both have other Florida congressional districts on lists of districts that could switch parties, but not the 23rd. Inside Elections was watching the 23rd District for much of 2023, but shifted it to “solid Democratic” from “likely Democratic” in September.

Besides serving as DeSantis’ emergency management chief, Moskowitz has been elected to the Florida state House of Representatives and the Parkland City Commission and appointed to fill a vacancy on the Broward County Commission.

Moskowitz and his late father, Mike Moskowitz, used to talk about the son someday getting to Congress. Mike Moskowitz died of pancreatic cancer early in 2022, before Jared Moskowitz was elected.