- Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida is the far-right faction’s latest choice for House Speaker.
- The 44-year-old is a second-term lawmaker and one of only five Black Republicans in Congress.
- Donalds was among Kevin McCarthy’s early supporters before changing his vote on Tuesday.
The 20 far-right Republicans campaigning against Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid for House Speakership threw their weight behind a new rising star on Wednesday amid the ongoing battle for GOP control.
Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida is the faction’s latest alternative to McCarthy, the nine-term California lawmaker who is having a very bad week after losing six votes for the leadership position since Tuesday.
Donalds, 44, a sophomore Republican from the Sunshine State, stands in stark contrast to the embattled McCarthy. The ultra-conservative, anti-abortion, pro-gun rights lawmaker started only his second Congressional term this week after narrowly winning his 2020 Republican primary by fewer than 800 votes.
He was among McCarthy’s early supporters in the first two votes on Tuesday, but switched his vote to Rep. Jim Jordan for the final ballot that day, saying he changed sides in order to “break a deadlock.”
At the start of Wednesday’s session, Rep. Chip Roy of Texas nominated Donalds for the Speaker position, commenting on the historic nature of his candidacy in conjunction with Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ nomination to his party’s House caucus, marking the first time two Black candidates were nominated for the leadership positions.
“We do not seek to judge people by the color of their skin, but rather the content of their character,” Roy said in his nominating speech. “Byron Donalds is a good man, raised by a single mom, moved past diversity, became a Christian man at the age of 21, and has devoted his life to advancing the cause for his family and this country. And he has done it admirably.”
Donalds garnered a standing ovation from some of his 20 supporters after casting a vote for himself on Wednesday during the fourth vote.
Donalds grew up in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a single mother. Throughout his campaign, he was open about his struggles as a teenager and young adult. He was arrested for marijuana distribution in 1997; the charges were later dropped as part of a pre-trial diversion program.
Three years later he was charged with bribery, though that count was eventually expunged from public record. In a 2020 political ad, Donalds said he ultimately decided to get his life together “through the grace of God.”
Donalds graduated from Florida State University with a degree in financing and marketing. He briefly worked in the banking, finance, and insurance industries, according to his Congressional biography, before becoming involved in state politics.
His place in Florida’s Republican community was cemented after then-Republican Gov. Rick Scott appointed him to the board of trustees of Florida Southwestern State College.
After an unsuccessful 2012 Congressional bid, Donalds was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2016. Four years later, he emerged victorious from a packed Republican primary and cinched a retired member’s Congressional seat.
One of only five Black Republicans in Congress, Donalds expressed excitement about the number of Black Republicans running for Congress in 2022.
“What you’re seeing with these Black candidates is that we understand public policy, we understand the Constitution, we support rule of law, we support limited government,” Donalds told The Washington Post in October. “And I think what you’re finding in some of these areas is we also happen to be the best candidate in the field.”
He has riled Democratic feathers in defending far-right politicians, including former President Donald Trump, from allegations of racism.
Donalds lives in Naples, Florida, with his wife, Rika, and three sons.