President Donald Trump formally endorsed Byron Donalds in his bid for Congress.
“Byron Donalds will be a phenomenal Congressman for the people of Florida!” Trump tweeted. “He strongly supports our Brave Law Enforcement, School Choice, Military, Vets and the Second Amendment! Byron is a Rising Star! He has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”
The Naples state lawmaker, who faces Democrat Cindy Banyai in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, heartily embraced the support.
“Thank you President Donald Trump for your support,” he tweeted back. “Together we will defeat socialism, take back the House, and Keep America Great.”
Of course, the tweet would have greater consequence had it been issued before Florida’s Aug. 18 Republican primary. In the GOP-dominated district, Donalds was one of nine Republicans on the primary ballot.
He ultimately pulled through with 22.6% of the vote, just 774 votes more than Dane Eagle, a fellow state lawmaker. The tight race ultimately came down to four well-backed candidates, the two Florida House members and self-funders Casey Askar and William Figlesthaler. Those four were within 5% of one another in the final tally.
Donalds campaign consultant Shawn Frost said the campaign openly courted “the tweet.” But in a contested, open primary, the President didn’t thumb the scales this time, likely thanks to split loyalty with others. That especially includes Eagle, who served at the time as House Republican Leader and since the primary was tapped by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally, to head Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity.
Donalds did land a congratulatory tweet the night of the election from presidential progeny Donald Trump Jr.
But Donalds’ candidacy definitely benefited from perpetual suggestions his nomination would help Trump win Florida and reelection in the fall. With Rep. Will Hurd retiring from the House, Donalds could well be the only Black Republican in the House this year. He has touted his support for Trump since the launch of his campaign, and many national figures see Donalds as a potential liaison to minority voters ahead of Nov. 3.
As for the House race itself, Donalds has agreed to multiple debates with Banyai but entered the General Election cycle a heavy favorite. Retiring Rep. Francis Rooney won reelection in the district with more than 62% of the vote.