Who is Byron Donalds, the Latest McCarthy Alternative?

The 20 Republicans opposing Representative Kevin McCarthy of California for the House speakership have coalesced, for now at least, around Representative Byron Donalds of Florida.

Mr. Donalds is a second-term House member — or would be if any House members had been sworn in. That makes him an unusual candidate for the job of speaker, which normally goes to more experienced legislators, though there is no formal requirement that a speaker have served in Congress for a certain length of time or even that they be a member.

Mr. Donalds, 44, worked in finance before being elected to the Florida House in 2016 and then to the U.S. House in 2020. He ran for Congress as a conservative ally of then-President Donald J. Trump, and was one of 147 Republicans who voted to reject the results of the 2020 presidential election.

In a 2021 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Donalds defended the Republicans’ passage of voting restrictions in many states, including Florida, and said he did not believe Mr. Trump’s rhetoric was connected to Trump supporters’ storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

In nominating him at the start of the fourth vote on Wednesday, Representative Chip Roy of Texas noted that Mr. Donalds is Black and that this was the first time two Black candidates had been nominated for speaker. The Democratic nominee, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, became the first Black leader of any party’s House caucus on Tuesday. There has never been a Black speaker.

But, in a nod to Republicans’ resistance to the idea of diversity as a goal in its own right, Mr. Roy quickly suggested that this did not really matter.

“We do not seek to judge people by the color of their skin, but rather the content of their character,” Mr. Roy said, paraphrasing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Byron Donalds is a good man raised by a single mom who moved past adversity, became a Christian man at the age of 21 and has devoted his life to advancing the cause for his family and his country.”

Mr. Donalds has spoken before about that past adversity, including arrests more than 20 years ago for distribution of marijuana and bribery. He participated in a diversion program, and the marijuana charge was dismissed; the bribery charge was expunged.

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