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Byron Donalds announces bid for Francis Rooney’s congressional seat

The move opens up a Naples area statehouse seat as well.

It’s official. State Rep. Byron Donalds announced in a campaign video Monday morning that he’s running for Congress.

“I am everything the fake news media tells you doesn’t exist,” the Naples Republican said in the video, given first to Florida Politics. “A strong, Trump-supporting, gun-owning, liberty-loving, pro-life, politically incorrect black man.”

He’s now one of eight Republican candidates to officially file to succeed U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney representing Florida’s 19th Congressional District. And he’s one of three sitting state Representatives in the area running for the seat, along with Dane Eagle and Heather Fitzenhagen.

But in many ways, Donalds’ decision to run brings the greatest political impact beyond the congressional contest itself. While Fitzenhagen and Eagle were both already term-limited, Donalds’ departure from the Florida House means District 80 is an open seat. Donalds was the only candidate to declare for that seat thus far, but there’s been wide speculation he would run for Congress so candidates can be expected to declare soon.

The announcement video presents Donalds’ personal biography along with his political agenda. Notably, it includes footage of Donalds on stage with President Donald Trump last October. That’s when the Florida pol presented the President with the 2019 Bipartisan Justice Award at the Second Step Presidential Forum in South Carolina.

“I was incredibly proud to stand with President Trump and work with him to deliver the President’s common sense criminal justice reforms,” Donalds said.

His personal biography elevated a personal reason to believe in second chances, mentioning his arrest in New York as a youth on drug possession charges. He was the child of a single mother, and considered the event a wake-up call.

“I knew I had to get my life together, and through the grace of God I did,” Donalds said in his ad.

The ad also shows Donalds with his family, including wife Erika Donalds, a leader in the School Choice Movement. Along with stalwart Republican issues like supporting the wall, Donalds spotlighted his record championing “conservative education reform.”

He also alludes to his vote against the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Act, a school safety bill passed after the Parkland shooting but which included provisions prompting a lawsuit by the National Rifle Association.


“When my own party caved to the liberals on your Second Amendment rights, I fought them and will again,” Donalds promised.

In addition, Donalds is also highlighting his efforts to reform aspects of the criminal justice system, including raising the threshold that triggers felony theft charges from $300 to $750.

He took another shot at some specific liberals — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff. With images of the two Democratic leaders on screen, Donalds promised to “stand with the President against these impeachment radicals who trample our Constitution and paralyze our country with their dangerous lies.”

“The left wants you to think being a Republican means being privileged, racist and out of touch,” Donalds said. “Well, I’m not going to let them get away with it.”

Donalds faces Eagle, Fitzenhagen, Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson, former Minnesota state Rep. Dan Severson, professional commentator Ford O’Connell, Naples physician William Figlesthaler and former New York City Mayoral candidate Darren Dione Aquino in the Republican primary.

Here’s Donald’s launch video:


The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at

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