GOP's DeSantis runs for Florida governor with Trump, but his running mate slammed president
TALLAHASSEE – Soon after news that Republican Ron DeSantis chose state Rep. Jeanette Núñez of Miami as his running mate, she was haunted by a 2016 tweet she wrote that called President Donald Trump a “con-man” with "no substance" and accused him of supporting the Ku Klux Klan.
“Wake up Florida voters, Trump is the biggest con-man there is,” Núñez said in the tweet that has since been deleted from her account.
In it, she also urged Floridians to vote for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and used hashtags that also accused Trump of being “anti-Israel."
In case you missed it: DeSantis has chosen first female Cuban-American lieutenant governor running mate
That's quite a contrast in views with DeSantis, who early in Trump's 2016 presidential bid backed him. DeSantis, who received Trump's repeated praise and endorsement in his gubernatorial race, railed against primary opponent Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam for calling Trump “vile” in response to an audio recording that featured him bragging about grabbing women by the genitals.
In the end, Núñez backed Trump's nomination as one of Florida’s 99 delegates to the GOP convention, saying it would be a “disservice to voters” in the state if she didn’t.
Republican Ron DeSantis will face Democrat Andrew Gillum in Florida's race for governor.
“I was not an early Donald Trump supporter,” she said in an interview with CBS’s Facing South Florida in Miami in 2016 before the GOP convention. “In all honesty, he wasn’t my pick. He wasn’t, probably, my second or third choice.”
The mother of three is now making history by becoming the state’s first female Cuban-American to be picked as a lieutenant governor candidate, a position that holds no specific responsibilities and serves to succeed the governor in case of resignation or death.
On Thursday, when DeSantis introduced Núñez publicly at an Orlando rally, she later responded to questions about her criticisms of Trump.
"Elections are elections. It is what it is," she said. "It's no secret that I was a strong Marco Rubio supporter, but that election is done."
Núñez also has taken a stand against Trump in recent months. In January, she joined House leadership in a bipartisan statement to reject his comments about Haitians being from “sh--hole countries.”
“If the remarks attributed to President Trump are accurate, they have no place in our public discourse,” Nuñez said in a statement with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, whom she served under; Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues; Democratic Leader Janet Cruz; Democratic Leader-designate Kionne McGhee; and others.
For DeSantis, though, his choice came down to Núñez’s “proven record of leadership and legislative accomplishments.”
DeSantis and Núñez will now embark on a tough general election campaign, facing Democrats Andrew Gillum, a black progressive, and his running mate Chris King, an Orlando entrepreneur who lost to Gillum in the gubernatorial primary.
“Together, I know we can build an economy that works for all Floridians, protect our natural resources and provide every child a great education,” Núñez said in a statement Thursday.
As a member of the Florida House since 2010, one significant legislative accomplishment was carrying a 2014 high-profile bill allowing children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities.
The bill passed the House with strong opposition from 33 Republicans, including then-state Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is a close ally of DeSantis. Once Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law, Núñez applauded the effort as one that would “provide our students with more opportunities to live the American dream.”
Other legislative proposals she has championed added protection to victims of sex crimes. In 2014, Núñez offered a bill that would have removed the statute of limitations for certain sex crimes when victim was under 16, but it didn't pass.
This year, her bill to ban marriages for children under the age of 17 passed.
Núñez is seen by most as an establishment figure in the state Republican Party and has extensive legislative experience, having recently served as Speaker pro tempore under Corcoran. She served on the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years to propose changes to the Florida Constitution. While serving in the CRC, she pushed a failed proposal that would have relocated a portion of anti-smoking marketing funding to cancer research.