U.S. Rep. Laurel Lee of Brandon last week became the first Florida Congress member to endorse Gov. Ron DeSantis for president in 2024, while a string of Florida Republican House members, including Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, have gone against their home-state governor and announced backing for Donald Trump.
Besides Bilirakis, Reps. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota and Anna Paulina Luna of St. Petersburg are among 10 Florida House members to endorse Trump, out of 20 Republicans in the state delegation.
Lee issued her endorsement even though DeSantis didn’t endorse her in her competitive, five-way primary for her House seat last year.
DeSantis appointed Lee Secretary of State in January 2019, and her appointment and service in that office were among her main campaign themes in the 2022 race.
She defeated former state Sen. Kelli Stargell, former state Rep. Jackie Toledo and two others in the 2022 primary. Stargell and other candidates statewide also emphasized their connections to DeSantis in their campaigns.
Bilirakis did not face a strong opponent in his 2022 primary, winning 80 percent of the vote against four other candidates. Both Lee and Bilirakis easily won their general elections.
DeSantis stayed publicly neutral in several contested 2022 GOP congressional primaries.
In a statement issued through Never Back Down, the political committee seeking to draft DeSantis into the presidential race, Lee said, “As Ron DeSantis’s Secretary of State, I had the honor of witnessing firsthand his unparalleled leadership under pressure, his character, and his commitment to core conservative principles. His leadership and his vision made Florida a shining beacon of freedom. … It was my honor to serve in his administration and it is my honor today to endorse him for President of the United States.”
In a statement, Bilirakis, without naming DeSantis, said Florida “boasts two trailblazers of unabashed, bold leadership whose achievements … are to be commended.”
But he said Trump “has a proven track record of delivering results” on the national stage and “is the right leader to seize this moment by building on past accomplishments.”
In the last few weeks, in addition to Buchanan and Luna, Florida Reps. Byron Donalds, Matt Gaetz, Anna Paulina Luna, Michael Waltz, Brian Mast, Cory Mills, John Rutherford and Greg Steube have announced backing for Trump, according to news reports, announcements and Trump’s web site.