5 things to know about Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for Florida governor

DeSantis is a young Congressman who has taken hard-line stances on several issues.
Ron DeSantis gives his victory speech during the Ron DeSantis for Governor Election Night Party in the Sebastian Ballroom at the Rosen Shingle Creek on Aug. 28 in Orlando. (TAILYR IRVINE   |   Times)
Ron DeSantis gives his victory speech during the Ron DeSantis for Governor Election Night Party in the Sebastian Ballroom at the Rosen Shingle Creek on Aug. 28 in Orlando. (TAILYR IRVINE | Times)
Published Aug. 29, 2018

Congressman Ron DeSantis, R-Palm Coast, locked in a solid victory Tuesday night as the Republican nominee for Florida governor, soaring above Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a blowout win.

DeSantis, 39, is a three-term member of the U.S. House and is married to a former TV host, Casey, who has stumped with him in recent weeks. They have two small children, who were both featured in a tongue-in-cheek TV ad that depicted DeSantis teaching his toddler daughter to "build the wall" out of toy blocks and showed his infant son with a MAGA onesie.

Here's what else you need to know about the Republican nominee:

1. He was endorsed by President Trump.

If voters know one thing about Ron DeSantis, it's usually that he was endorsed by the president. Trump's praise for DeSantis began with a supportive tweet in December, which he clarified as a "full endorsement" in June — right around when the momentum of the race switched in DeSantis' favor (it also coincided with the first Republican debate, which likely contributed).

DeSantis' supporters cite the president's endorsement as a major factor for their vote, and everything from DeSantis' platform to his campaign swag is emblematic of Trump, MAGA and "draining the swamp."

DeSantis also rose to prominence on Fox News in large part because of his vocal criticism of the Robert Mueller investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. His position on that issue led to Trump calling him a "warrior," and likely contributed to him earning his endorsement.

READ MORERon DeSantis' victory was a blow to the political establishment. But to his supporters, it was "expected."

2. He is a member of the Freedom Caucus, a group of the most conservative representatives in the U.S. House.

DeSantis was a founding member of the Freedom Caucus that voted for government shutdowns rather than compromise on their strict ideology, earning the group unpopularity among even some centrist Republicans.

On the campaign trail, DeSantis faulted Putnam for several votes during Putnam's time in Congress for bipartisan and even Republican-driven measures, such as the "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill proposed by Republican Sens. John McCain and Marco Rubio, as well as George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" education reform.

READ MORE: Defending Trump, threatening shutdowns: What 5 years in Congress tell us about Ron DeSantis.

3. He is a Navy veteran who served as a military lawyer in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.

DeSantis has often mentioned his military service on the campaign trail as an indication of his patriotism, because given his Ivy League credentials (he attended Yale and Harvard Law) he had many options after college that didn't involve service overseas.

Not many details are known about his time in the military, other than the fact that he served in Gitmo in 2006, one of the more tumultuous times in the detention center's history. As a member of the Judge Advocate General corps of military lawyers, or JAG, DeSantis' job was to advocate for the fair and humane treatment of the detainees to ensure the U.S. military complied with the law, said some of the Naval officers who served with him.

DeSantis went to Iraq in 2007, where he was a legal adviser to SEAL Team One.

READ MORE: In bid for Florida governor, Ron DeSantis touts Navy Gitmo experience. But what did he do there?

4. He says he would not have signed the Florida Legislature's post-Parkland gun bill into law, as Republican Gov. Rick Scott did.

DeSantis has taken a harder stance on gun rights than Scott and many Republican state lawmakers did after the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting, which left 17 students and teachers dead.

After the tragedy, Parkland students traveled to Tallahassee to demand action from the Florida Legislature on guns and school safety, which resulted in Florida's first gun control measures in about a decade: a three-day waiting period for gun buys, raising the purchasing age from 18 to 21 and banning bump stocks. The bill also required armed guards at every school (law enforcement or trained school staff) and provided new funding for mental health services in schools.

DeSantis' stance against any "blanket" restrictions on guns means gun rights will likely be one of the major flash points of the general election race. Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum has advocated for banning all military-style assault rifles.

5. DeSantis' campaign has been based largely on national issues.

Whether it's criticizing U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters or talking tough on illegal immigration, DeSantis has built a great deal of support around national issues. For a time, his campaign website didn't even have an "issues" tab.

However, he has gained traction with voters by criticizing the "Big Sugar" industry, which many  blame for the blue-green algae crisis in Lake Okeechobee and its surrounding waterways.

Time will tell if DeSantis further elaborates on state issues like his pro-school choice stance and his opposition of taxes and regulation.