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Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, touted as a rising star in the Republican Party, suddenly moved into the spotlight today.
Donalds, who represents Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast, has become the new standard bearer for the 20 members opposed to electing Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as speaker. One of only four Black Republicans in the House, he was the unanimous choice of those opposed to McCarthy in multiple rounds of voting today.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said Donalds, who is about to begin his second term, is exactly who Congress needs as a leader.
In a floor speech nominating Donalds, Roy said Americans “want a new face, new vision, new leadership and I believe that face, vision and leadership is Bryon Donalds.”
Donalds, 44, has been seen as a rising star since he announced his run for Congress in 2020. He has a moving personal story, raised by a single mother in Brooklyn and then turning his life around after being arrested for distributing marijuana at 18 and few years later being charged with bribery – a charge which was later expunged from his record.
“He’s a man who understands what tough times look like and has come out of those tough times even stronger,” said Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) when nominating Donalds for speaker.
Previously, he worked in the banking, finance, and insurance industries. He became involved with the Tea Party movement and was appointed as a trustee of a state college by then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). He lost his first run for Congress in 2012.
In 2016, he won a seat in the Florida state legislature and in 2020, won a crowded primary to capture the nomination that was tantamount to election in the GOP district. He replaced retiring Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.).
While Donalds has been seen as a future leader in the party – including by former President Donald Trump – House Republicans rejected his challenge to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) for House Republican Conference Chair in November. He lost, 144-74.
Donalds, who saw none of the more than 30 bills or resolutions he introduced last Congress pass the House, tried but was denied entry into the Congressional Black Caucus, which has no GOP members. He often votes with his party, although he has occasionally broken ranks on the need for environmental protections for his coastal district.
Donalds voted for McCarthy to be speaker on the first two ballots on Tuesday, but then changed his vote to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in the third round later in the day. He voted for himself on subsequent ballots on Wednesday.
Members opposing McCarthy asked Donalds if he would be their nominee, and he said he agreed after speaking with his wife.
Donalds told reporters on Wednesday it was not yet time for McCarthy to step aside as a nominee for speaker.
“I don’t think we’re there at this point,” he said. “There’s a lot of members in the chamber who want to have serious conversations about how we can bring this all to a close.”
He noted he would like to see a rules change allowing one member to force a vote to oust the speaker. The current proposed rules set the threshold at five members.
Donalds said the debate was “an invigorating day for America.” He added, “The time of leadership by acclamation, those days are over.”
When asked if he was worried about blowback for opposing McCarthy, Donalds shrugged it off.
“I’m a city kid from New York,” he added. “This is nothing.”