With a virtual endorsement from President Donald Trump and a finance team packed with national heavyweights, Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is entering the 2018 race for Florida governor.
“As somebody who’s a military officer, Iraq veteran, a proven conservative and then 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 this morning on Fox News.
DeSantis, a three-term congressman from the Jacksonville area, joins Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in what promises to be a big-spending GOP primary. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, is also considering the race, but isn’t expected to decide until the legislative session ends in March.
DeSantis, who ran for Senate in 2016 until Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio decided to seek re-election, has been flirting with a gubernatorial run for months. His prospective candidacy got a huge boost on Dec. 22 when Trump tweeted about him as Air Force One taxied at Palm Beach International Airport to begin a 10-day stay at Mar-a-Lago.
“Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!” the president tweeted.
DeSantis was a U.S. Navy lawyer who served in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay.
A week after Trump’s tweet, DeSantis announced a finance team that includes Republican megadonor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie and Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and head of a foundation that dispenses millions to Republican and conservative causes.
Some prominent Palm Beach County fundraisers are also on DeSantis’s finance team, including Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, billionaire investor Thomas Peterffy and longtime GOP activist Gay Gaines of Palm Beach and pro-Israel donors Lothar and Carlyn Mayer of Boca Raton.
A committee expected to back DeSantis, the Fund For Florida’s Future, began December with about $2 million in its bank account. DeSantis’s congressional committee has about $1.7 million in cash on hand that can be transferred to the governor’s race.
Putnam began December with about $15.3 million in cash on hand between his campaign and the Florida Grown political committee.