Gov. Ron DeSantis is stepping into the all-important contest in Senate District 39 with an endorsement for GOP candidate Ana Maria Rodriguez.
“Ana Maria is a proven champion for Florida’s children and families, and she understands that protecting Florida’s water is important to our state’s overall economic success,” DeSantis said in a Monday statement.
“She has taken a stand for our first responders and advocated for our Veterans, and I am proud to endorse her for the Florida Senate.”
Added Rodriguez, “Gov. Ron DeSantis is leading our state admirably during these unprecedented times and I am honored to have his support.”
The Governor’s endorsement is unsurprising in some ways, given Rodriguez was the only Republican to qualify for the contest. The state’s qualifying deadline elapsed last Friday at noon.
However, his decision to weigh in on the race at all shows its importance to state Republicans at large.
The contest is arguably the highest-profile Senate race in the state. GOP Sen. Anitere Flores is term-limited, giving Democrats a chance to put a dent in Republicans’ 23-17 Senate majority.
Senate GOP leadership courted Rodriguez to run last summer in an effort to hold the seat. Rep. Javier Fernández and Daniel Horton-Diaz, a former District Chief of Staff for U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, are battling for the Democratic nomination. Celso Alfonso also qualified as a non-party affiliated candidate.
Rodriguez has led the field in overall fundraising so far, thanks to multiple assists from Senate leadership. Fernández, however, has fared better in recent months. He topped Rodriguez in the most recent fundraising reports, which covered May.
Both Fernández and Rodriguez are giving up their respective House seats after just a single term to compete in the SD 39 contest. Last week, Mucarsel-Powell endorsed Fernández over her former district chief of staff in the Democratic primary.
SD 39 covers all of Monroe County and part of southern Miami-Dade County.