TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A congressman who recently won President Donald Trump’s tweeted endorsement for the job of Florida governor entered the race Friday, saying he wants to “drain the swamp in Tallahassee.”
Ron DeSantis joins a crowded field seeking to replace Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who leaves office in 2019 due to term limits. Trump tweeted last month that DeSantis is a “brilliant young leader” who “would make a GREAT governor. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!”
DeSantis made his announcement on Fox News and made sure to mention the Trump endorsement.
“With the support of the president, I’m in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work that Gov. Rick Scott has done to advance economic opportunity, reform education and drain the swamp in Tallahassee, which needs to be drained just like Washington,” DeSantis said.
While a popular line during the Trump campaign, there isn’t the same frustration with Tallahassee as there is with Washington — at least among Republicans.
Republicans have controlled the Legislature and governor’s office since 1999, when Jeb Bush was sworn into office. Since then there have been several laws passed on ethics and lobbying, including a lobbyist gift ban, a ban on lawmakers lobbying state agencies for two years after leaving office, a law requiring lobbyists to provide more details on the money they receive from clients and greater transparency in campaign finance reporting.
DeSantis hasn’t been shy about his support for Trump. He introduced the president at a rally in Pensacola last month and praised him.
“I see the results, I see him working hard, and this is a president, mind you, who is facing unprecedented opposition from the Democrats, from the media … from the bureaucracy in Washington, from the lobbyists, from the other swamp dwellers,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis, 39, was a history major at Yale University, where he graduated with honors and was captain of the baseball team. He received his law degree from Harvard University. He served as a Navy lawyer in Iraq and worked as a federal prosecutor before being elected to Congress in 2012.
He is a favorite of conservative political groups and was a 2016 candidate for Senate before dropping out of the race when Republican Sen. Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election.
DeSantis filed his paperwork Friday and will make a formal announcement later this month. He is speaking at the Republican Party of Florida annual meeting on Saturday. It’s an event where candidates woo party leaders and activists. His Republican primary opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, is also speaking there.
A third Republican candidate, state Sen. Jack Latvala, hasn’t actively campaigned since early November and is resigning his seat at midnight Friday after a Senate investigation found probable cause that he inappropriately touched a woman who worked in the Senate majority office. He hasn’t said whether he will end his campaign.
DeSantis has about $1.5 million in his federal campaign account and a political committee that supports him has about $2.5 million. That $4 million will eventually be put to into the governor’s race. Putnam has a combined $14.4 million in his political committee and campaign accounts.
DeSantis won his seat running as a Washington outsider in a conservative northeast Florida district, a message he also carried into his Senate campaign before dropping out.
Democrats seeking the seat include former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando-area businessman Chris King. Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran is considering a run, but won’t announce his political plans until after the legislative session ends March 9.
AP writer Gary Fineout contributed to this report