Ron DeSantis has replaced his campaign manager Generra Peck, in what is the third major realignment of his operations, a campaign spokesperson and a person familiar with the move confirmed to POLITICO.
Peck will be reassigned to a role of chief strategist as part of the new order. Her place at the head of the campaign is taken by James Uthmeier, who has served as chief of staff in the DeSantis governor’s office. In a text, Uthmeier said the change would happen as soon as possible.
The move comes just weeks after the DeSantis campaign and close advisers insisted Peck’s job was secure, even after the team laid off a third of its staffers amid a budget crisis and concern over the direction of the operation.
The governor’s team vowed to scale back, mount an insurgent operation and reach more mainstream media. They’ve all done that. But the results have yet to be reflected in the polls.
A person close to the campaign, who was given anonymity to discuss the matter freely, said Peck’s removal, first reported by The Messenger, “was no surprise. Should have happened a few weeks ago.”
Andrew Romeo, DeSantis’ campaign spokesman, also confirmed the staff move in a statement, saying that “Uthmeier has been one of Governor DeSantis’ top advisers 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 beat Joe Biden.”
Uthmeier has served as DeSantis’ chief of staff since October 2021 and served as the governor’s general counsel before becoming his top aide. He has been involved in some of the governor’s most high-profile initiatives, including last year’s controversial program to transport migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.
Uthmeier also served as a senior adviser to former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, but his background is primarily in legal work rather than political campaigning.
This isn’t the first time DeSantis – whose inner circle is very close – has approached people who worked for him in the governor’s office to help with his presidential ambitions.
In early July, Stephanie Kopelousos, the governor’s director of legislative affairs, who had worked for the DeSantis campaign for many years, while Taryn Fenske, the governor’s communications director, left to work for Never Back Down, the super-PAC that supports DeSantis .
It was Peck who tried to reassure donors and supporters at a retreat in Utah late last month. At the event, she acknowledged that the campaign had spent too much money ramping up its operation and that the campaign would shift to a leaner “insurgent” stance.
Since that time, DeSantis has relied on smaller campaign events — some of them in conjunction with Never Back Down — while also sitting for interviews with mainstream media. This week, for example, DeSantis did an interview with NBC News just months after a top spokesman said they were boycotting the network.
Despite polls showing him trailing former President Donald Trump, DeSantis has vowed to plow ahead in early states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Brushing aside some of his polls, DeSantis told NBC News this week that “I’d much rather be underestimated” when asked about some of the problems with his campaign so far.