JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis named state Rep. Jeanette Nunez as his running mate Thursday morning in a news release just before a rally with other Republican candidates in Orlando.
Nunez is the first Cuban-American woman chosen as a lieutenant governor candidate.
DeSantis' pick is noteworthy because Nunez has been at odds with some of his agenda supporting President Donald Trump. DeSantis won the nomination last week with Trump's endorsement, and he's been a constant defender of the president on Fox News.
Nunez backed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for president in the 2016 presidential campaign and tweeted that Trump was a con man who supported the Ku Klux Klan.
Nunez and DeSantis downplayed her past the tweet while talking with reporters.
"Listen, we're here talking about moving forward," she said. "It's no secret that I was a strong Marco Rubio supporter. That election is done and I'm looking forward to this election."
DeSantis told reporters: "To support Marco Rubio, a favorite son from Miami, a Cuban-American, what a historic run. I mean, if I were in her shoes, I probably would have been supporting Marco as well. That's a nonissue. We are just really united on having a path forward for Florida."
And while DeSantis has a tough-on-immigration position in line with Trump's, Nunez was the prime sponsor of a 2014 education bill to provide in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrant children living in Florida, a bill opposed by several immigration hardliners including current U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has campaigned with DeSantis.
Also noteworthy, DeSantis has campaigned as a Tallahassee outsider who wants to "drain the swamp" at the Capitol picked a member of the House leadership team. Republican Gov. Rick Scott can't seek re-election because of term limits and is instead challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Scott was also at the rally where DeSantis introduced Nunez as his running mate.
Politico, which first reported DeSantis was planning to choose Nunuez, noted that the Miami representative could help DeSantis in Miami-Dade County, which has a large Cuban-American community.
The 46-year-old mother of three could also help garner votes from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, whose campaign is counting on support from women voters.
On the Democratic side, Gillum chose former opponent Chris King to be his running mate.