- By George Bennett Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Florida’s Republican nominee for governor, Ron DeSantis, resigned from Congress on Monday to focus on his nationally watched race against Democrat Andrew Gillum, who has surged to an early fundraising lead since both won their Aug. 28 primaries.
“It has been an honor to serve the people of Florida’s Sixth Congressional District,” DeSantis said on his congressional Twitter account, attaching a copy of his resignation letter to Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
DeSantis was finishing his third term representing a Jacksonville-area district in the U.S. House. He asked Ryan to make his resignation retroactive to Sept. 1 so he does not receive any pay for September.
“As the Republican nominee for governor of Florida, it is clear to me that I will likely miss the vast majority of our remaining session days for this Congress. Under these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to accept a salary. In order to honor my principles and protect the taxpayer, I officially resign from the House of Representatives immediately,” says the resignation letter.
Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo blasted the DeSantis announcement. Rizzo charged DeSantis “quit on the people of Florida” to try to deflect attention from a Washington Post story that noted DeSantis has spoken at four conferences — including one at The Breakers in Palm Beach — sponsored by David Horowitz, a leftist-turned-conservative activist and writer who has made controversial statements on race.
The Washington Post story highlighted a 2017 Horowitz tweet that said America’s “only serious race war” is “against whites” and noted controversial pronouncements by some of the conference’s other speakers.
The DeSantis campaign referred to a statement from DeSantis’s former congressional spokeswoman, Elizabeth Fusick. She said DeSantis is “happy to be judged on his record,” but does not “buy into this ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ notion that he is responsible for the views and speeches of others.”
Tallahassee Mayor Gillum became the first black nominee for governor in Florida history when he stunned four better-financed Democratic rivals to win the party’s Aug. 28 primary. Gillum’s win drew national attention and a gusher of contributions from Democrats in all 50 states.
In the first three days after his win, Gillum and an affiliated political committee, Forward Florida, raised more than $4 million, according to reports filed Friday with the Florida Division of Elections. DeSantis, meanwhile, raised only $521,880 in the same period.
Gillum began September with more than $4.2 million in cash on hand for the governor’s race while DeSantis had $1.5 million.