Congressman Byron Donalds, a Naples Republican, and former state lawmaker, drew the national spotlight this week as he emerged as an alternative to U.S. House Speaker-hopeful Kevin McCarthy.
Donalds, who was first elected to Congress in 2020, drew 20 votes Wednesday when his name was put forward on the fourth, fifth, and sixth ballots.
Those votes were the most a Florida representative has ever received for speaker, a position that’s behind the vice president in the succession order for president. Voting was expected to continue Thursday afternoon to try to end a Republican standoff.
In January 2015, Florida Republican Congressman Dan Webster received 12 votes, and then-Florida Congressman Ted Yoho got two votes as then-Congressman John Boehner, R-Ohio, was returned to the speaker’s post.
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Webster also drew nine votes in October 2015 as then-Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., became speaker after Boehner’s retirement.
Ryan drew all but one Republican vote as he maintained the speakers’ position in January 2017. Webster received that single vote, with Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie declaring with his vote, “To drain the swamp, Daniel Webster.”
In 2019, then-Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of Central Florida drew a single vote for speaker from then-Congressman Ben McAdams, D-Utah.
McCarthy’s repeated attempts this week to secure 218 votes to become speaker have riveted the political world. A group of Republicans who oppose McCarthy’s bid have backed alternatives, including Donalds, who also drew notoriety because he would be a Black House speaker.
Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush, a Democrat who is Black, dismissed the idea that Donalds is a historic candidate.
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“He is a prop,” Bush said in a Twitter post. “Despite being Black, he supports a policy agenda intent on upholding and perpetuating white supremacy. His name being in the mix is not progress — it’s pathetic.”
Donalds replied in a tweet that nobody asked Bush for her opinion, adding, “Before you judge my agenda, let’s have a debate over the policies and the outcomes. Until then, don’t be a crab in a barrel!”
Donalds was the third speaker candidate offered by the GOP faction opposed to McCarthy, R-Calif. The faction is headed, in part, by Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz. Republican Anna Paulina Luna, who was elected in November in a Tampa Bay district, voted against McCarthy.
Donalds received a single vote on the first ballot held Tuesday. He voted for McCarthy on the first two ballots.