State Rep. Dane Eagle announced he is running for Florida’s 19th Congressional District.
“We deserve a Congressman who will represent us and our values, someone who will stand up and fight for our Constitution and for the good work our President is accomplishing,” Eagle said.
Eagle is the first Republican candidate to announce since incumbent U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney said he would not seek reelection.
Notably, Rooney is among the only House Republicans to say he’s keeping an “open mind” about impeachment.
While Eagle said he respects Rooney and did not plan to challenge him in a primary, he quickly sought to establish himself as an ally of President Donald Trump: “Our values, our way of life, and our President are under attack,” Eagle said.
Now the Republican Leader in the Florida House, Eagle next year wraps up his fourth term in the Legislature.
“Unlike Washington, we actually get things done,” Eagle said. “We cut taxes while balancing our budget, banned sanctuary cities, protected the unborn, and tackled our water crisis head-on.”
The commercial real estate agent has long had high political aspirations. At age 24, he became Deputy Chief of Staff to then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. He was the youngest person ever to hold the job.
He’s a native of Southwest Florida. Born in Cape Coral, Eagle graduated from Bishop Verot High School, where he served as class president. He studied at Florida Gulf Coast University before earning his undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Florida.
Eagle noted a number of conservative honors under his belt, including the American Conservative Union, Award for Conservative Excellence and Defender of Liberty, Florida Chamber of Commerce Honor Roll, an “A” ratings from Americans for Prosperity and the Champion of Family award from the Florida Family Council.
He laid out a starkly conservative agenda as he runs for Congress: “I’m running to secure our borders, defend the 2nd Amendment, clean up our waterways, and protect American jobs,” Eagle said.
Eagle could face a crowded primary for the job. Other possible candidates include Republican Reps. Byron Donalds, Heather Fitzenhagen and Bob Rommel as well as former Rep. Matt Caldwell, the Republican nominee for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018.
Donalds, who lost a 2012 congressional race, told the News Service on Tuesday night he has not decided whether to run to replace Rooney.
Over the weekend, Donalds was on stage with Trump, awarding him the 2019 Bipartisan Justice Award in South Carolina. In the state House, Donalds has been an advocate for criminal-justice reforms and the expansion of school choice.
Just as notable is who isn’t running. On Monday, state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto said she will not run for the seat. Before her announcement, a St. Pete Polls survey showed her leading the field with about 24 percent of registered Republicans backing her.
Eagle was the third-place candidate in the early measure, earning about 10 percent support behind Caldwell’s 17 percent.
Eagle’s announcement was followed by a show of support from U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who represents Florida’s 1st Congressional District.
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) November 6, 2019
Trump’s “America First” agenda and the environment will be key issues in the race to represent the heavily Republican district. Southwest Florida has grappled with problems of blue-green algae in waterways and red tide along the coast.
“Candidates in this seat should bear hug President Trump and Gov. [Ron] DeSantis,” Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican who is close to Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis, told The News Service of Florida.
Gaetz, who served in the state House with Eagle before getting elected to Congress, called Eagle a “great friend.” But Gaetz, who has become a prominent figure in state and national GOP politics, is not endorsing a candidate at this point.
“I expect a big, dynamic field, and other friends of mine are also considering a run,” Gaetz said.
A video announcement from Eagle’s campaign is below.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.