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Naples Republican Byron Donalds sets sights on Speaker of the House role

It’s deja vu all once again. Once more, the U.S. House of Representatives is trying to find a brand new speaker of the House. Once more, deep divisions within the Republican Party are stopping a transparent winner despite multiple votes. And once more, Byron Donalds’ hat is back within the ring.

Donalds backed Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, in all three of his failed attempts over the past couple of weeks since a bunch of GOP hardliners pulled Kevin McCarthy, R-California, out of the spot in a historic vote. But on Friday, after the GOP voted to tug Jordan’s nomination in a secret ballot vote, Donalds announced on X (formerly Twitter) that “he hopes to “grow to be the primary African American Speaker, the primary Speaker from the nice state of Florida, and the subsequent Speaker of the 118th Congress.”

Donalds is certainly one of several recent names within the race. But who’s Byron Donalds?

Who’s U.S. Rep Byron Donalds?
Byron Lowell Donalds is a Florida House Republican from Naples, first elected to Congress in 2020.

Born in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the center of three children raised by a single mother, Donalds, 44, is a graduate of Florida State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and marketing in 2002. He has worked at TIB Bank, CMG Life Services, and Moran Wealth in Naples.

Donalds entered politics as a part of the Tea Party movement and ran for the U.S. House of Representatives for Florida’s nineteenth congressional district in 2012. He finished fifth, out of six candidates. In 2016, he ran for the Florida House of Representatives and won, replacing retiring incumbent Francis Rooney to represent Hendry County and east Collier County within the State Capitol.

In 2020, Donalds succeeded in getting elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the nineteenth district, and was re-elected in 2022.

Donalds’ rough background and hard-core conservatism have made him a GOP rising star endorsed by former president Donald Trump. Donalds has described himself as a “Trump-supporting, liberty-loving, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment Black man.”

While he also has been a staunch DeSantis supporter, Donalds has spoken out against the state’s controversial recent Black history standards, saying that the majority of it was good, robust and accurate but “the try and feature the non-public advantages of slavery is incorrect & must be adjusted.”

A member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, Donalds has played a big role in key negotiations between moderate and ultraconservative GOP lawmakers.

Next up for Byron Donalds: VP? Florida governor? ‘Whatever God has for us, we’re here for it’

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What district does Byron Donalds represent?
Florida’s nineteenth congressional district in Southwest Florida, which encompasses most of Lee and Collier counties and runs from North Fort Myers and Cape Coral in Lee County to Naples and the Ten Thousand Islands in Collier. His district includes Fort Myers, Naples, Bonita Springs, Estero and the barrier islands along each counties.

What has Donalds done for Florida’s nineteenth congressional district?
Donalds has made water quality issues his fundamental focus.

Still in committee, the bipartisan Harmful Algal Bloom Essential Forecasting Act would keep scientists looking out for potentially dangerous blooms even during government shutdowns. A yr later got here the Protecting Communities from Harmful Algal Blooms Act, one other bipartisan effort to support research on airborne algae toxins and make it easier for bloom-affected communities to get government help.

He’s also worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is redoing the way in which it releases often-polluted water from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River, “ensuring that Southwest Florida’s interests are recognized in the brand new release schedule,” Donalds said. “We have just scored some major wins for our area, which goes to assist with water quality.”

Catching dangerous blooms: Byron Donalds’ first bill would keep harmful algal bloom watchdogs working even when the federal government shuts down

Why was Donalds nominated for Speaker of the House in January?
“There’s a very important reason for nominating Byron. And that’s, this country needs a change,” said Chip Roy, the Texas Republican who put Donalds’ name in play throughout the first raucous race for the speakership in January that McCarthy ultimately won, after 15 votes. “This country needs leadership that doesn’t reflect this city, this town, that’s badly broken.”

During Jordan’s failed speaker elections this month, some GOP members holding out against him voted for Donalds as a protest candidate.

This time Donalds announced his own candidacy, saying he was specializing in “securing our border, funding our government responsibly, advancing a conservative vision for the House of Representatives and the American people, and expanding our Republican majority.”

Fellow Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Hialeah was quick to endorse Donalds. posting on X that Donalds “is an honorable leader and revered by your complete conference. That’s the reason it’s a privilege to endorse Byron for speaker.”

Others from Florida, including Rep. Cory Mills of Winter Haven and Vern Buchanan of Sarasota, also announced their support.

“I supported Jim Jordan for our next Speaker,” Mills wrote on X Friday afternoon. “Unfortunately, my votes for him on the ground and in conference to stay Speaker designate weren’t enough. I now support Byron Donalds.”

Byron Donalds could be the primary Black speaker of the House if his longshot bid were to succeed.

Was Byron Donalds arrested for possession?
When Donalds was 18, after a celebration at his apartment, he was arrested for possession of marijuana. Two years later, a female acquaintance convinced him he could make a thousand dollars by depositing a nasty check. “I used to be desperate, I used to be out of cash, I didn’t have a job, my rent was overdue.”

Donalds has since made restitution to the bank for about seven times the unique amount, however the state pressed bribery charges in 2000. The costs were later expunged. The 1997 marijuana charge was dismissed as a part of a pre-trial diversion program.

“My pastor all the time says that everyone in life is 15 seconds away from silly,” Donalds said. “But once you’re desperate, you’re three seconds away. And I used to be desperate.”

Donalds has been open about these arrests during his campaigns and has said they’re a tale of sin and atonement that make him uniquely qualified to serve others.

Was Byron Donalds the goal of a Florida Ethics Commission criticism?
In 2020, a criticism was filed alleging that Donalds didn’t disclose his previous arrests on several applications, including one to sell securities and a 2014 application to serve on the board of Florida SouthWestern State College. Donalds maintained that for the reason that bribery charges were expunged, they now not existed and he had no reason to reveal them.

After reviewing the criticism, the Florida Ethics Commission dismissed it, finding it lacked legal sufficiency.


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