Congressional candidate Kevin Hayslett is boasting on his website that he has the support of Ron DeSantis. No, not that one, but Ronald Daniel DeSantis, the father of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Hayslett says that doesn’t mean anything about whether the governor is taking sides in the hard-fought Republican primary for the western Pinellas congressional seat.
The question is significant because former President Donald Trump has endorsed a different candidate in the race, Anna Paulina Luna.
Several prominent, local elected Republicans have endorsed Hayslett.
There’s been substantial national coverage alleging friction between the two GOP power brokers, based in part on DeSantis’s refusal to commit that he won’t challenge Trump for the nomination for president in 2024 if Trump runs.
DeSantis publicly denies any rift and refuses to comment on his presidential intentions.
Last week, Hayslett, a comparative newcomer to the primary, tweeted and posted a photo of himself and the elder DeSantis, taken at a campaign event. The photo appeared to be taken from DeSantis’s Facebook page with the caption, “Me and Kevin Hayslett, the future U.S. Congressman.”
Hayslett added to the Tweet and his own Facebook posting, “Proud to have the support of District 13 (Dunedin, Fl) resident Ron DeSantis Sr., the father of the greatest Governor of the Freest State.”
Gov. DeSantis’s middle name is Dion.
In an interview, Hayslett said the backing of the elder DeSantis isn’t an “endorsement,” which in Florida normally requires a written statement from the endorser, but simply “support.”
The DeSantis re-election campaign didn’t respond to questions about whether the governor was aware beforehand of his father supporting Hayslett, whether he approved of it or whether it’s any indication of the governor’s preferences in the primary.
Asked whether his support from the father suggests support from the son, Hayslett said only that the elder DeSantis and his wife have been to several of his campaign events and told him they support him.
“This really is about his parents support of my candidacy. What the governor does is his independent decision and I have no idea what he will do in any race,” he said.
State and federal campaign finance records dating back to the 1990s don’t show any political contributions from the elder DeSantis to anyone except his son.
He couldn’t be reached for comment through social media messages.
In the primary, Hayslett faces Luna, Amanda Makki and others.
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All three have proclaimed their loyalty to Trump, but Trump endorsed Luna in September, before Hayslett got into the race in January.
Hayslett, a former prosecutor, has since been endorsed by state House Speaker Chris Sprowls, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd, former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Pinellas Clerk of Court Ken Burke.
He had raised $750,728 through April, compared to $1.4 million for Luna and $763,975 for Makki. Following a redistricting that took large parts of the city of St. Petersburg out of the district, it now leans Republican.