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Another top official leaves super PAC backing Ron DeSantis’ campaign

Never Back Down Chairman Adam Laxalt’s decision to step down marks the second major departure at the pro-DeSantis super PAC in the last two weeks.
 
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, speaks during an event for his GOP presidential campaign as his wife Casey DeSantis looks on, Friday in Prosperity, S.C. DeSantis is making a daylong swing through South Carolina, which holds the first southern Republican presidential primary of the 2024 campaign. Adam Laxalt, the chairman of the most powerful independent group supporting DeSantis' presidential ambitions, has resigned. It marks the second major departure at the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC in the last two weeks.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, speaks during an event for his GOP presidential campaign as his wife Casey DeSantis looks on, Friday in Prosperity, S.C. DeSantis is making a daylong swing through South Carolina, which holds the first southern Republican presidential primary of the 2024 campaign. Adam Laxalt, the chairman of the most powerful independent group supporting DeSantis' presidential ambitions, has resigned. It marks the second major departure at the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC in the last two weeks. [ MEG KINNARD | AP ]
Published Dec. 1, 2023

The chairman of the most powerful independent group supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential ambitions has resigned, marking the second major departure at the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC in the last two weeks.

Never Back Down Chairman Adam Laxalt, the former Nevada attorney general and a close DeSantis confidant, submitted his resignation on Sunday, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Associated Press on Friday. The New York Times first reported Laxalt’s decision.

“Effective immediately, I am resigning from the Board of Directors of Never Back Down. After nearly 26 straight months of being in a full scale campaign, I need to return my time and attention to my family and law practice,” Laxalt wrote to the super PAC board. “I will continue to support Governor DeSantis in whatever ways I can, and I hope and pray that his campaign will be successful.”

Last week, the super PAC’s chief executive, Chris Jankowski, also resigned.

The moves come as DeSantis struggles to redirect his stagnant presidential campaign, which has fallen far short of expectations. The 45-year-old Florida governor entered the 2024 GOP primary this spring as the chief rival to former President Donald Trump. Now, he’s locked in a fierce contest for a distant second place with former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley as Iowa’s make-or-break presidential caucuses loom just six weeks away.

The departures mark a dark chapter for the super PAC, which launched earlier this year with more than $80 million in seed money.

Without Laxalt and Jankowski, Never Back Down’s board is now largely under the control of longtime DeSantis loyalists. At the same time, another super PAC led by DeSantis loyalists just launched a new super PAC, Fight Right, which is focused on fueling DeSantis’ television advertising.

Never Back Down will continue to focus on DeSantis’ get-out-the-vote efforts, according to a memo sent to donors earlier this week by campaign manager James Uthmeier that described the campaign entering the final weeks of the year “in very strong form.” Uthmeier promoted both Never Back Down and Fight Right in the memo, noting that 100% of Fight Right’s proceeds would be spent on television advertising.

“As Donald Trump and Nikki Haley work side-by-side spending tens of millions of dollars to attack Ron DeSantis, Fight Right’s emergence provides welcomed air support,” Uthmeier wrote. “In the final push for the Iowa Caucus victory, this campaign will proudly fight alongside NBD’s impressive ground game, and Fight Right’s television team, to show the people of Iowa that this is a time for choosing, and Ron DeSantis is the candidate that can WIN!”

Federal law does not allow formal campaigns and outside groups to coordinate directly. DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo said earlier this week that it was “totally false” to assert that DeSantis coordinated any campaign strategy with the super PACs.

Still, DeSantis is relying on both super PACs to play vital functions in the weeks ahead.

By STEVE PEOPLES, THOMAS BEAUMONT, and MICHELLE L. PRICE, Associated Press.

Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa, and Price reported from New York.