By Gray Rohrer
U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis resigned from Congress on Monday to concentrate on his campaign for governor against Andrew Gillum, his Democratic opponent.
"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," he said in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday. "Under these circumstances, it would be inappropriate to accept a salary."
The resignation is effective immediately, but DeSantis also asked for his pay to be canceled retroactive to Sept. 1. DeSantis missed some votes in Congress while campaigning last week. If Ryan isn't able to cancel his pay for that week, the money will be donated to charity, a campaign spokesman said.
DeSantis, R-Fla., was first elected to his north Florida district in 2012 as a tea party conservative. He briefly ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 before quitting the race when incumbent Marco Rubio changed his mind about giving up his seat after he was defeated in the presidential primary by Donald Trump. He won the GOP primary for governor against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam last month.
In the general election, he faces Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, who surged to a win in the Democratic primary over four other candidates in the final weeks.
The 2-week-old general election has seen DeSantis face down charges of racism while Gillum's campaign explains an ongoing FBI investigation into the city of Tallahassee.
During a Fox News interview after the primary, DeSantis said voters shouldn't "monkey around" with the success of GOP rule in Florida, a comment viewed as a racist allusion to Gillum, the first African-American nominee for governor of the major parties in Florida.
And on Monday, The Washington Post reported on DeSantis' appearances in recent years at David Horowitz Freedom Center conferences, organized by a conservative activist who has espoused racist views. DeSantis said he was "honored" to speak at the event in 2015 and said he "admired" Horowitz.
The report drew condemnation from liberal groups backing Gillum, which see DeSantis' resignation as an attempt to distract from the story.
"This desperate stunt will not change the subject from Ron DeSantis' racist comments and affiliations with hate groups," said Zach Hudson, spokesman for American Bridge, a political committee supporting liberal causes. "Abandoning his post won't save Ron DeSantis."
(c)2018 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)