JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis put an end to months of speculation swirling around him when he announced plans Friday morning to enter the Florida governor's race.
In a televised interview with Fox News, DeSantis, who has represented St. Johns, Flagler and part of Putnam and Volusia counties in Congress since 2013, said he would be filing paperwork with the state elections division to make his campaign official.
DeSantis, 39, is a U.S. Navy veteran and graduate of both Yale and Harvard.
"As somebody who's a military officer, Iraq veteran and proven conservative, with the support of the president, I'm in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work that Gov. Rick Scott has done to advance economic opportunity, reform education and drain the swamp in Tallahassee, which needs to be drained -- just like Washington," he said.
Republicans Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Florida Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran and state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, have all raised millions of dollars for anticipated runs for governor this year, although Latvala is mired in a sexual misconduct scandal.
On the Democratic side, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum are in a four-way race with Winter Park businessman Chris King and Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine.
Graham tweeted Friday, calling DeSantis "out of touch and too extreme for Florida."
Levine tweeted that DeSantis is "The absolute last thing Florida needs
Republican consultant Mac Stipanovich said DeSantis does represent the right wing populist side of the party.
"He will pull Adam (Putnam) to the right, as Adam tries to compete for that Trump vote," Stipanovich said.
The congressman's announcement follows the release of a poll that showed him leading the Republican field vying for the state's highest office. It also comes exactly two weeks after President Donald Trump fired off a tweet throwing his support behind DeSantis for governor.
Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2017
"Congressman Ron DeSantis is a brilliant young leader, Yale and then Harvard Law, who would make a GREAT Governor of Florida. He loves our Country and is a true FIGHTER!" the tweet read.