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Who is Byron Donalds, ‘Never Kevin’ Republicans’ new choice for speaker

Republicans opposed to Kevin McCarthy for speaker got behind the Florida sophomore.

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Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., who has been nominated for Speaker of the House, speaks to members of the media on the House steps, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

Republicans opposing Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for House speaker coalesced Wednesday around a new alternative, Florida Rep. Byron Donalds.

Donalds won 20 votes across three ballots Wednesday, denying McCarthy of the 218 votes he would need to win the speakership if all House members are present to vote. Donalds voted for McCarthy in the first first two rounds, but voted for himself Wednesday, tweeting that McCarthy “doesn’t have the votes.”

“These continuous votes aren’t working for anyone,” Donalds wrote. “When the dust settles, we will have a Republican speaker, now is the time for our conference to debate and come to a consensus.”

If nominated, Donalds would be the first Black speaker in U.S. history. Democrats have voted for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., making him the first Black lawmaker nominated for speaker in U.S. history. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, the first member to vote for Donalds, noted the fact Wednesday, to a standing ovation.

“For the first time in history, there have been two Black Americans placed into the nomination for the speaker of the House,” he said.

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who is Black, said Donalds was a “prop,” tweeting, “Despite being Black, he supports a policy agenda intent on upholding and perpetuating white supremacy.” Donalds responded on Fox News, calling her comments “outrageous.”

“If you see a Black man rising, let the man rise, even if you don’t agree with him,” he said.

Voting resumed Thursday, with Donalds gaining 19 votes to again deny McCarthy the House speakership. Donalds told CNN he’s open to voting for McCarthy again if he has a path to victory. But that wasn’t present during Thursday’s first vote, the seventh attempt by the majority of Republicans to seat McCarthy.

McCarthy received support from former President Donald Trump, who wrote on his social media site late Tuesday that Republicans should “close the deal” by voting for him.

Donalds said the delay in selecting a speaker was evidence of a new era in Washington.

“For far too long in this town, everything has just been go along to get along,” Donalds said. “I think those days are long over in Washington, D.C.”

A former Florida state lawmaker, Donalds entered the U.S. House in 2021. He described himself in a campaign ad as a “strong Trump-supporting, gun-owning, liberty-loving, pro-life, politically incorrect Black man.” Last year, as a freshman, he lost a longshot bid for House Republican Conference Chair, the No. 3 House Republican, to Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.