One of the largest incoming classes in recent history, the 2018 group of Republicans were almost split evenly on who would oversee and enact legislation in the House following the critical 2024 elections. Insiders had Perez in the lead with 15 backers, compared to Robinson's 12. The razor-thin margin, coupled with the fact that one of Perez's supporters could be eyeing a Senate bid, had officials close to the race speculating that the race between Perez and Robinson could go past the June 3o meeting.
The race between Danny and Will could be a long one," one lawmaker said back in June when discussing the race between both sides.
The inside scoop on the race, first reported by The Florida Report, cast a light on the inner workings on the race, and how the outcome could have been different had Robinson and company held out. That, however, changed one week after the story made the rounds, with Republican leadership catching wind of the report and quickly getting involved in an effort to consolidate the group, preventing a divide occurring inside the party.
Following his discussion with leadership, the Bradenton lawmaker dropped out of the race, citing that he "didn’t quite have the necessary votes."
Those who backed Robinson say that he came extremely close to securing the necessary support to control the speaker's gavel for a two-year term from 2024 to 2026 -- permitted Republicans retain the House. Many in Robinson's camp believed the vote was actually 14 to 12, with Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez potentially on her way out to run for an open Senate seat in South Florida. With one vote potentially altering the outcome, many believed that fellow Sarasota lawmaker, Rep. James Buchanan, could've been the vote that swayed the election. With the rules on electing the House leader being vague, Robinson could have continued his fight in hopes of swinging Buchanan and others to his side.
But at what cost?
Robinson's decision to unite both sides was a relief for Republican authority. Holding out could have put a strain on everyone involved, leading to a severance inside the party that could have impacted future legislation aimed at keeping Florida red. Not to mention, 2024 is a huge election year that will see someone new inside the White House -- assuming President Donald Trump wins in 2020 (judging by the Democratic debates, it's safe to say he will). With Florida always in the national spotlight, a break within the party could've been a bad optic for Florida Republicans looking to continue to eradicate the progressive culture that has plagued the Sunshine State for years. Robinson's move was an unselfish decision to put the platform over the person.
"I want to congratulate my colleague and friend, Danny Perez, on his win to represent our class as Speaker in the upcoming years," Robinson told The Florida Report. "His civility, leadership, and friendship have helped create a union amongst our class. I am excited about his conservative vision to keep our great state moving forward."
But Robinson wasn't the only one to put his class first. Immediately following Robinson's concession, Perez said he would be fair when choosing leadership in the House, promising to pick officials based on merit, not on who supported him from day one. This is a classy move, given the fact that there are not enough top-tier positions in the House to accommodate everyone in the 27-member class. Perez could've easily shown favoritism to his ardent supporters.
As far as the rest of the legislators, it seems like everyone involved is rallying behind Perez, showing no bitterness or animosity with how the ending of the race transpired. Knowing anything about how the rise and fall of political stock work in the state, this is refreshing given how the outcome between Perez and Robinson could have carved out a chasm between both camps.
Fortunately, that didn't happen. And judging by some of the comments from those involved in the affair, everyone in the class is once again unified under the conservative banner.
Senior leadership within the party also weighed in on Perez's victory.
"Rep. Perez is a winner and he will do a great job as speaker," said Republican Party Chair Joe Gruters. "He has the natural ability to bring people together and his leadership style will be beneficial for all Floridians."
With a unified base and strong support from senior leaders inside the Republican Party, the 2018 class is proving to be one the most formidable. With both sides seeing the value of a healthy, solidified delegation, the 2018 Republican class can now focus on pushing conservative laws and legislation that will benefit Florida for years to come.