Who is Byron Donalds? The Florida congressman is in the running for speaker of the House

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., speaks to reporters as House Republicans meet to hold an internal House speaker election on Oct. 11, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

It’s deja vu all over again.

Once again, the U.S. House of Representatives is hunting for a new speaker of the House. Once again, deep divisions in the Republican Party are preventing a clear winner despite multiple votes. And once again, Byron Donalds’ hat is back in the ring.

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

Donalds is one of several new names in the race. But who is Byron Donalds?

Who is U.S. Rep Byron Donalds?

Incumbent Byron Donalds, a Republican from Naples, represents most of Lee and Collier counties in Congress as the Florida District 19 U.S. Representative.

Bryon Lowell Donalds is a Florida House Republican from Naples, first elected to Congress in 2020.

Born in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the middle 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 part of the Tea Party movement and ran for the U.S. House of Representatives for Florida’s 19th 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 in the State Capitol.

In 2020, Donalds succeeded in getting elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the 19th 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 new Black history standards, saying that most of it was good, robust and accurate but “the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted.”

A member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, Donalds has played a large 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’

Who is Byron Donalds?6 things to know

What district does Byron Donalds represent?

Florida’s 19th 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 both counties.

What has Donalds done for Florida’s 19th congressional district?

Donalds has made water quality issues his main focus.

Still in committee, the bipartisan Harmful Algal Bloom Essential Forecasting Act, would keep scientists on the lookout for potentially dangerous blooms even during government shutdowns.  A year later came the Protecting Communities from Harmful Algal Blooms Act, another 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 it releases often-polluted water from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River, “making sure that Southwest Florida’s interests are recognized in the new release schedule,” Donalds said. “We’ve just scored some major wins for our area, which is going to help with water quality.”

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

Why was Donalds nominated for Speaker of the House in January?

“There’s an important reason for nominating Byron. And that is, this country needs a change,” said Chip Roy, the Texas Republican who put Donalds’ name in play during the first raucous race for the speakership in January that McCarthy ultimately won, after 15 votes. “This country needs leadership that does not reflect this city, this town, that is 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 focusing on “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 respected by the entire conference. That is why it is 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 floor and in conference to remain Speaker designate was not enough. I now support Byron Donalds.”

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

Was Byron Donalds arrested for possession?

When Donalds was 18, after a party 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 bad check. “I was desperate, I was out of money, I didn’t have a job, my rent was overdue.”

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

“My pastor always says that everybody in life is 15 seconds away from stupid,” Donalds said, “but when you’re desperate, you’re three seconds away. And I was desperate.”

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

Was Byron Donalds the target of a Florida Ethics Commission complaint?

In 2020 a complaint was filed alleging that Donalds did not 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 since the bribery charges were expunged that they no longer existed and he had no reason to disclose them.

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

Contributors: Amy Bennett Williams, The Fort Myers News-Press; Antonio Fins, The Palm Beach Post; Ken Tran, USA TODAY

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge, Black Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

Get Insightful, Cutting-Edge, Black Content Daily - Join "The Neo Jim Crow" Newsletter!

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

This post was originally published on this site