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Don or Ron? It’s time for Republicans to choose sides

by David Silverberg

It can’t be put off any longer: Florida’s Republican politicians will have to choose between former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to be the next Republican presidential nominee.

That choice will represent the biggest issue facing the Florida Republican Party between now and the primary. Voters won’t have to make their decisions until the Republican Florida presidential preference primary on March 19, 2024. But state Republican politicians have to make their choice now, as DeSantis’ formal declaration draws near and both sides demand oaths of fealty. By and large they have already done so.

In Southwest Florida (SWFL), declarations of loyalty came early and initially favored Trump, who declared his candidacy last November. However, at the state level the endorsements favored DeSantis.

Team Don

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) was the first SWFL politician to endorse Trump, doing so on April 6. In a lengthy statement he said that Trump would get the country “back on track, provide strength and resolve and make America great again.” He has been actively campaigning for Trump ever since. Rumors are swirling that he is considering a gubernatorial bid in 2026.

Donalds was followed by Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) who endorsed Trump during an appearance on Newsmax on April 17, saying “he’s the only person who can reverse on day one all these disastrous policies of the Biden administration.”

Also in the Trumpist column is Collier County Republican Committeeman Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes III, the grocer and long-time Make America Great Again (MAGA) activist. Oakes was present at Trump’s campaign announcement on Nov. 15 at Mar-a-Lago.

Team Ron

DeSantis has lagged behind on endorsements largely because he hasn’t been a declared candidate.

Nonetheless, state Senate President Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-28-Naples) endorsed DeSantis on May 16, in a statement calling him, “exactly the kind of leader we need for our country, and I look forward to supporting him for President.”

In the state House of Representatives SWFL Reps. Spencer Roach (R-76-DeSoto and Charlotte counties), Tiffany Esposito (R-77-Lehigh Acres), Jenna Persons-Mulicka (R-78-Fort Myers), Mike Giallombardo (R-79-Cape Coral), Adam Botana (R-80-coastal Lee County), Bob Rommel (R-81-Naples) and Lauren Melo (R-82-Hendry and Collier counties) have all endorsed DeSantis.

DeSantis was also endorsed by Florida House Speaker Rep. Paul Renner (R-19-Flagler and St. Johns counties).

What to watch

SWFL politicians to watch in the days ahead include Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-26-Fla.), who has not yet declared.

Neither of Florida’s senators, Republicans Marco Rubio or Rick Scott, have endorsed either candidate. Scott has stated that he is remaining neutral in the contest.

As of this writing, 13 Florida legislators had not made their commitments known.

Also unclear at this point are endorsements at the county and city level.

Endorsements are important indicators of Party support for candidates. The website has an excellent, constantly updated interactive page on endorsements: “Which 2024 Republican Presidential Candidate Has The Most Endorsements?” It assigns different point values to endorsements based on the prominence and position of the endorsers. It currently shows Trump far ahead overall.

Clearly, Trump’s lead will change after DeSantis makes his announcement.

Below is the full list of state officeholders (arranged alphabetically by last name) who endorsed DeSantis as of May 17, courtesy of NewsChannel 8, Tampa.

Florida Senate

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo

Sen. Ben Albritton (Senate District (SD)-27))

Sen. Bryan Avila (SD- 39)

Sen. Dennis Baxley (SD-13)

Sen. Jim Boyd (SD-20)

Sen. Jennifer Bradley (SD-6)

Sen. Jason Brodeur (SD-100)

Sen. Douglas Broxson (SD-1)

Sen. Danny Burgess (SD-23)

Sen. Colleen Burton (SD-12)

Sen. Alexis Calatayud (SD-38)

Sen. Jay Collins (SD-13)

Sen. Nick DiCeglie (SD-18)

Sen. Gayle Harrell (SD-31)

Sen. Travis Hutson (SD-7)

Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (SD-11)

Sen. Jonathan Martin (SD-33)

Sen. Debbie Mayfield (SD-19)

Sen. Keith Perry (SD-9)

Sen. Corey Simon (SD-3)

Sen. Jay Trumbull (SD-2)

Sen. Clay Yarborough (SD-4)

Florida House

Speaker of the House Paul Renner

Rep. Shane Abbott (House District (HD)-5)

Rep. Thad Altman (HD-32)

Rep. Danny Alvarez (HD-69)

Rep. Adam Anderson (HD-57)

Rep. Alex Andrade (HD-2)

Rep. Jessica Baker (HD-17)

Rep. Douglas Bankson (HD-39)

Rep. Webster Barnaby (HD-29)

Rep. FabiánBasabe (HD-106)

Rep. Melony Bell (HD-49)

Rep. Kimberly Berfield (HD-58)

Rep. Adam Botana (HD-80)

Rep. Robert Brackett (HD-34)

Rep. Chuck Brannan (HD-10)

Rep. James Buchanan (HD-74)

Rep. Jennifer Canady (HD-50)

Rep. Mike Caruso (HD-87)

Rep. Ryan Chamberlin (HD-24)

Rep. Linda Chaney (HD-61)

Rep. Chuck Clemons (HD-22)

Rep. Wyman Duggan (HD-12)

Rep. Tiffany Esposito (HD-77)

Rep. Tom Fabricio (HD-110)

Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin (HD-118)

Rep. Randy Fine (HD-33)

Rep. Alina Garcia (HD-115)

Rep. Sam Garrison (HD-11)

Rep. Mike Giallombardo (HD-79)

Rep. Karen Gonzalez Pittman (HD-65)

Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman (HD-91)

Rep. Michael Grant (HD-75)

Rep. Tommy Gregory (HD-72)

Rep. Griff Griffitts (HD-6)

Rep. Fred Hawkins (HD-35)

Rep. Jeff Holcomb (HD-53)

Rep. Berny Jacques (HD-59)

Rep. Sam Killebrew (HD-48)

Rep. Traci Koster (HD-66)

Rep. Chip LaMarca (HD-100)

Rep. Tom Leek (HD-28)

Rep. Vicki Lopez (HD-113)

Rep. Randy Maggard (HD-54)

Rep. Patt Maney (HD-4)

Rep. Ralph Massullo (HD-23)

Rep. Stan McClain (HD-27)

Rep. Lawrence McClure (HD-68)

Rep. Fiona McFarland (HD-73)

Rep. Lauren Melo (HD-82)

Rep. Kiyan Michael (HD-16)

Rep. Jim Mooney (HD-120)

Rep. Toby Overdorf (HD-85)

Rep. Bobby Payne (HD-20)

Rep. Daniel Perez (HD-116)

Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka (HD-78)

Rep. Rachel Plakon (HD-36)

Rep. Alex Rizo (HD-112)

Rep. Spencer Roach (HD-76)

Rep. Will Robinson (HD-71)

Rep. Bob Rommel (HD-81)

Rep. Joel Rudman (HD-3)

Rep. Michelle Salzman (HD-1)

Rep. Jason Shoaf (HD-7)

Rep. Tyler Sirois (HD-31)

Rep. David Smith (HD-38)

Rep. John Snyder (HD-86)

Rep. Paula Stark (HD-47)

Rep. Kevin Steele (HD-55)

Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (HD-18)

Rep. John Temple (HD-52)

Rep. Josie Tomkow (HD-51)

Rep. Dana Trabulsy (HD-84)

Rep. Chase Tramont (HD-30)

Rep. Keith Truenow (HD-26)

Rep. Kaylee Tuck (HD-83)

Rep. Taylor Yarkosky (HD-25)

Rep. Brad Yeager (HD-56)

Special to Big Mouth Media from the Paradise Progressive. Originally published on May 22, 2023.

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