State Rep. Byron Donalds appeared on Fox & Friends a day after announcing his run for Congress. There, he made the case his candidacy can expand the base of the Republican Party.
“We have to have new voices, new faces, people who are going to help us expand our tent, stand for the President, and not only win in 2020 but in the years beyond,” Donalds said.
The Naples pol, elected to the state House in 2016, is one of eight candidates seeking the GOP nomination running for an open House seat in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. Also running are Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson, former Minnesota Rep. Dan Severson, state Reps. Dane Eagle and Heather Fitzenhagen, professional commentator Ford O’Connell, former New York mayoral candidate Darren Dione Aquino and Naples physician William Figlesthaler.
But with Antonio Dumornay now running without party affiliation, he’s the only black person in the primary.
Host Ainsley Earhardt directly asked Donalds about the issue, noting the vast majority of black voters (and native New Yorkers) vote Democrat.
“How did you become a conservative?” Earhardst asked.
Donalds said he went through a self-discovery period about a decade ago.
“I didn’t really care about politics as a kid,” he said. “I wasn’t really astute about government. I didn’t come up in a political family.”
Working as a financial advisor, he became more aware of public policy at the dawn of the Great Recession in 2008. It was then he started reading the works of philosopher John Locke, studying the Magna Carta and examining the principles of the Founding Fathers regarding the role of government.
“I realized I’m actually a conservative,” he said. “And if you actually talk to a lot of black voters, away from politics, they hold conservative leanings. If you talk to Hispanic voters, away from politics, they hold conservative leanings.”
Donalds has spent much of the past decade working to engage more minority voters in Republican politics.
Often, he found antipathy to the Republican message was less about philosophy and feeling excluded. It was more a matter of “do they feel like they have a home in the Republican Party,” Donalds said.
“One of the reasons I’m running is to stand for the Constitution, absolutely, and to fight for the people of Southwest Florida,” Donalds said. “But it’s also to expand out tent and expand our base and show them that conservatism is a home for all Americans, no matter where you came from or where you grew up.”