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Who is Byron Donalds? The latest Republican nominee for House speaker

Hard-right Republicans nominated Republican lawmaker Byron Donalds of Florida to be House speaker Wednesday, making it the first time in history that both major parties nominated a Black American to lead the lower chamber of Congress.

“Byron is a dear friend, a solid conservative but most importantly a family man who loves dearly his wife, Erika, his three children; has a proven track record as a businessman, public service in the Florida legislature and now as a member of the United States Congress,” said Republican lawmaker Chip Roy (Tex.).

Opponents of GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) bid to become speaker rallied to Donalds’s candidacy with a standing ovation after Roy noted the historic nature of the nomination. Democrats have nominated lawmaker Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who is on track to become the first Black person to lead a party in Congress.

Donalds, who voted for McCarthy on the first two ballots Tuesday, ultimately received 20 votes on Wednesday’s fourth ballot, again blocking McCarthy’s attempt at becoming House speaker this term.

Roy referred to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech while nominating Donalds. And he spoke of Donalds’s journey from growing up in Brooklyn as a Democrat to being one of the few Black Republicans on Capitol Hill.

“We do not seek to judge people by the color of their skin, but rather the content of their character,” the Texan said. “Byron Donalds is a good man raised by a single mom who moved past adversity, became a Christian man at the age of 21 and has devoted his life to advancing the cause for his family and his country and he has done it admirably.”

Donalds, 44, has spoken often on the campaign trail about adversities he had to overcome as a younger man, particularly being arrested for distributing marijuana as an 18-year-old. Three years later he was arrested and charged with bribery — a charge that was later expunged.

“These were the actions of a young kid,” he told a local Fox affiliate in 2014. “I can’t undo that.”

“I can’t undo my mistakes,” Donalds added. “The only thing I can do is show and become the man that I am today for my family and the community that I love.”

The Florida State University graduate eventually launched a career in business before getting involved with state politics. Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) appointed Donalds to the board of trustees of a state college, which helped increase his profile in the state’s Republican Party.

Donalds went on to seek a congressional seat for the first time in 2012, two years after becoming a Republican and getting involved in the tea party movement. He was unsuccessful but was eventually elected to the Florida legislature four years later.

He was first elected to the House in 2020 after Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) retired from Congress.

Roy backed Donalds Wednesday to become speaker because he said the United States needs a change in leadership that is more reflective of the political diversity of this country.

Donalds previously expressed his excitement about the record-breaking number of Black Republicans who ran for Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.

“What you’re seeing with these Black candidates is that we understand public policy, we understand the Constitution, we support rule of law, we support limited government,” Donalds told The Post. “And I think what you’re finding in some of these areas is we also happen to be the best candidate in the field.”

Since coming to Congress, Donalds has made headlines defending the GOP — and former president Donald Trump — from accusations of racism. He frequently criticized liberal lawmakers — and specifically the Congressional Black Caucus — for its stances on racial matters.

“As a Black man in America, I’m allowed to have my own thoughts on who I choose to support and who I choose not to support,” he previously told CNN while discussing his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election. “My support of President Trump has been consistent, but at the same time, I’ve had the ability to advocate for issues, ideas, proposals and funding that have helped the Black community in my state.”

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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