Who is Byron Donalds, conservatives’ nominee for House speaker

Washington — The House’s unsuccessful efforts to elect its next speaker have thrust Florida Republican Byron Donalds into the spotlight, as three of Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s detractors nominated him to be speaker in three subsequent rounds of voting Wednesday.

Donalds garnered support from 20 of his fellow Republicans after he was nominated by Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania for the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds of voting, respectively.

Donalds told CBS News’ Nikole Killion that if he were elected to be speaker, “it’s a job that I would do relunctantly.”

“The job I really want to do is make sure we govern on behalf of the American people,” Donalds said.

Roy heralded him as a “family man” and “solid conservative” and said Donalds’ election as House speaker would usher in change and leadership he believes the country needs.

“Here we are, and for the first time in history there have been two Black Americans placed into the nomination for speaker of the House,” Roy said, referencing Donalds and Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who was also nominated to the post.

Perry, too, noted that electing Donalds speaker would be historic because he would become the first Black Republican speaker.

“Washington is broken,” he said. “Byron Donalds will inspire us.”

Donalds, 44, supported McCarthy on the first two ballots Tuesday, but cast his vote for speaker for GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio on the third. Donalds told Killion that he could support McCarthy at some point, but he had to meet some of the demands.

After he was nominated for the speakership Wednesday, Donalds voted for himself on the fourth, fifth and sixth ballots.

After six rounds of voting, it seems unlikely McCarthy will be able to rally the support needed to secure the speakership by the day’s end.

Donalds told reporters at the Capitol that he didn’t run for Congress with the intent of being House speaker, but was approached by McCarthy’s opponents about being nominated.

“Part of my responsibility is to make sure that our conference gets to a point where we are doing things in an effective and constructive way that we campaigned on. And I’m gonna help do that any way I can,” he said.

Born in Brooklyn and a graduate of Florida State University, Donalds worked in the banking, finance and insurance industries, according to his House biography.

Donalds ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012 and was appointed to the Board of Trustees for Florida SouthWestern State College by then-Gov. Rick Scott. Donalds was elected to the Florida House in 2016 and served two terms in Tallahassee.

Donalds ran for Congress in 2020 to Florida’s 19th Congressional District, which includes Fort Myers and Naples. During his bid, Donalds’ opponents focused on a 1997 charge for possession of marijuana and 2000 bribery charge that was expunged. The Republican spoke openly about the charges on the campaign trail and addressed the bribery charge in a 2014 interview with a Fox affiliate.

“Fifteen years ago, I came in contact with a girl. She offered me $1,000 for my debit card and my PIN number, and I gave it to her,” he said. “I never got the $1,000, but I had to make restitution to the bank in excess of $7,000.”

He said the arrests were “the actions of a young kid. I can’t undo that,” adding, “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.”

During the Republican primary in 2020, Donalds described himself as a “Trump-supporting, liberty-loving, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment Black man.” He went on to defeat his GOP opponents by just over 770 votes.

Since arriving in Washington two years ago, Donalds has sponsored 24 bills.

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