Florida Politics

Who is Ron DeSantis, the Republican running for Florida governor?

Congressman Ron DeSantis locked in a solid victory Tuesday night over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

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.

Here’s what you need to know about the GOP nominee:

1) He was endorsed by President Donald Trump.

If voters know one thing about 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 race momentum switched to DeSantis’ favor.

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.”

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 has voted for government shutdowns rather than compromising on their strict ideology.

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

DeSantis has often mentioned his military service 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 at 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.

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 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

After the tragedy, Parkland students demanded action from the 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 likely will be one of the major flash points of the general election race.

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 “Big Sugar,” which many blame for the blue-green algae crisis in Lake Okeechobee and its surrounding waterways.

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