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Incoming Florida House Speaker Oliva backs DeSantis


The incoming speaker of the Florida House has announced that he's endorsing Ron DeSantis for Florida governor, giving the Palm Coast congressman the backing of one of the three most powerful men in Tallahassee.

Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, cited DeSantis' military service and his record as one of the most conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives in endorsing him Thursday morning ahead of a Republican Party of Florida gathering in Orlando, which will include the first debate between DeSantis and GOP frontrunner Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. 

"Ron's commitment to this country and the values that made her great are second to none. Beginning with his service in Iraq alongside SEAL Team 1 through his time in Congress, Ron always puts America first," Oliva said in a statement. "He's a tax cutter, budget hawk, education reformer, and the rarest of elected officials in Washington, a demonstrated conservative. Florida has consistently shown what conservative governance can do for our schools, economy, job creation, and quality of life. We must continue that legacy of conservative leadership and Ron DeSantis is the candidate we can trust to do that.”

Endorsements typically do little to move the needle in campaigns. But Oliva's decision to side with DeSantis could give the candidate inroads in Miami ahead of the August primary. Both he and Putnam - who has the backing of current House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes and dropped out of the governor's race in May - are from North Florida.

The endorsement also allows Oliva, who as head of the House Republican caucus is in charge of electing and re-electing a GOP majority in the 120-member House, to send the signal to candidates that they should embrace the Trump wing of the party.

Miami Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.