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Republican Ron DeSantis will face Democrat Andrew Gillum in Florida's race for governor. Wochit

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TALLAHASSEE – U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee in Florida’s high-profile governor’s race, abruptly resigned Monday from Congress to focus on the campaign.

Citing his fiscal conservative principles as the rationale for his resignation, DeSantis said it would be inappropriate for him to accept his $174,000 annual salary due to the amount of time he is spending on the campaign trail.

"As the Republican nominee for governor of Florida, it is clear to me that I will likely miss the vast majority of our remaining session days for this Congress. Under these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to accept a salary," DeSantis wrote in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Heading into a contentious November general election, the 39-year-old Republican will face Democrat Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, the first African-American to snatch a major party's nomination in the state.

"The mayor has no plans to resign, and he'll finish out his term to complete the city's work," said Geoff Burgan, Gillum’s spokesman.

As it stands now, the race between DeSantis and Gillum is a toss-up, according to the first major post-primary poll. 

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DeSantis' decision to resign from Congress goes hand in hand with his stern ideology about Congress. In his letter to Ryan, DeSantis highlighted his decision to reject his congressional pension and turn down the health care subsidy for members, as well as his fight against congressional pay raises. 

"I've done my best to live these principles: I refused my pay during government shutdowns and have slept in my office to cut costs and be a more effective legislator," DeSantis wrote.

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Since entering the race for governor, DeSantis has missed 63 of 393 roll call votes, according to Gov Track, which keeps count of congressional votes. Between July and September, when the primary race was at its peak, the Palm Coast congressman missed more than half of his eligible votes.

Florida Democrats were quick to comment on DeSantis' resignation, saying the congressman had quit on the voters who sent him to Washington. 

"Ron DeSantis' entire political career has been about helping one person: Ron DeSantis," Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said.

Poll: GOP's Ron DeSantis supported by men, Hispanics; Democrat Andrew Gillum by women, blacks

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Splitting from his job in Congress means DeSantis will now live off his savings and will not touch campaign funds to pay for his salary, according to Stephen Lawson, his campaign spokesman. DeSantis is worth an estimated $310,000, according to financial disclosure forms that report his salary as a U.S. representative as his primary, and sole, income. 

DeSantis has requested his resignation be retroactive to Sept. 1 so he won't receive pay for the month of September.

The three-term congressman was first voted into office in 2013 to represent Florida's 6th Congressional District, which stretches from the southern Jacksonville suburbs to New Smyrna Beach. His U.S. House seat will remain vacant until after the November election.

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While serving in Congress, DeSantis was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, an invitation-only right wing group with the goal of lobbying for more conservative legislation.

He has also proven to be a top ally of President Donald Trump and often echoes the president's top grievances, such as criticism of the special counsel's investigation into potential Russian meddling in the 2016 election. His loyalty to the president earned him his endorsement, which catapulted DeSantis in Florida's primary race for governor. 

DeSantis beat Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam by nearly 20 points.

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