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Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) announced Wednesday that he intends to run for the open Senate seat in Florida being vacated by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.

The conservative favorite, a 36-year-old Iraq War veteran elected to the House in 2012, presented himself as a part of the “new generation of leaders” that Rubio said is ready to lead the country.

{mosads}“As a candidate for Senate, I look forward to offering reforms based on limited government principles that will make our country stronger and more prosperous,” DeSantis said in a statement. “I see a bright future for Florida and for America and my campaign will be about the ideas and principles that will help us achieve a more perfect union.”

If he wins the GOP nomination, DeSantis could face Rep. Patrick Murphy, the only Democrat in the race so far.

Groups on the right have been urging DeSantis to run since Rubio decided to forgo a potentially long career in the Senate for a shot at the White House.

They have hailed his service in Iraq and record of fiscal conservatism. DeSantis is one of the founding members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 Republicans with a shared frustration of GOP House leadership.

He was not the first choice of the GOP establishment, however, which quickly coalesced around Jeff Atwater, the state’s chief financial officer.

Atwater shocked Florida political watchers when he backed out of the race last month. State Attorney General Pam Bondi soon followed, as did Reps. Tom Rooney and Vern Buchanan, and former state House Speaker Will Weatherford.

DeSantis’s announcement earned him an immediate endorsement from FreedomWorks on Wednesday.

“I’m proud that Congressman DeSantis is the first endorsement of the 2016 cycle by FreedomWorks PAC,” FreedomWorks PAC Chairman Adam Brandon said in a statement. “Congressman DeSantis is a fiscal conservative leader who will bring much-needed leadership on important issues to the U.S. Senate. Congressman DeSantis has been a leader on everything from reducing federal spending, trying to stop ObamaCare, and opposing Common Core. I’m confident that our members will be very excited to help him win in November.”

Democrats immediately sought to paint DeSantis as beholden to the Tea Party and as a second-tier candidate.

“After six different Republicans passed on Florida’s Senate race, Washington Republicans now have to decide if they will embrace Tea Party extremist Congressman DeSantis who is wildly out of step with mainstream Floridians,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky said in a statement. “Congressman DeSantis supported the government shutdown, voted for plans that would dismantle Social Security and Medicare, and refused to support the Violence Against Women Act.”

The DSCC has already endorsed the centrist Murphy as its nominee, though liberal firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) is still considering a bid.

“While Republicans struggle in this open-seat contest, Democrats have a strong candidate in Patrick Murphy who is running a great campaign and will continue fighting for Florida families in the Senate,” Barasky said.

Tags Florida Marco Rubio Patrick Murphy Ron DeSantis
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