North Carolina House Majority Leader John Bell, R-Wayne, has endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for president of the United States, the first N.C. lawmaker to do so.
“Gov. DeSantis is a principled leader, a protector of individual liberties, and the Left’s biggest nightmare,” Bell said in a statement to Carolina Journal. “He will beat Joe Biden and usher in a Great American Comeback in which parents empowered, our streets are safe, and our economy is booming once again.”
Bell is currently serving his sixth 2-year term in the North Carolina House.
The House majority leader officially endorsed DeSantis at the North Carolina Republican Party convention, where he introduced the Florida governor to other state lawmakers and guests at a VIP gathering.
During the 2020 election, Bell was a vocal supporter of then-President Donald Trump. Bell even campaigned for him during a rally in eastern North Carolina.
“I was the first state official to step out and endorse Gov. DeSantis,” Bell told reporter Dawn Vaughan on the Under the Dome podcast. “I’ve been a fan of what he’s done in Florida since he’s been governor. That doesn’t mean that I dislike the other candidates.”
Bell said he intends to support the Republican nominee for president.
“I think that Gov. DeSantis brings a different style, a strong conservative background,” Bell said. “I feel like we need some new blood in Washington [D.C.].”
Bell implied that he likes DeSantis’s ability to appeal to a broader swath of Americans, more so than former President Trump.
“Look at the way COVID was handled… [and] the sheer size of economic growth of the state of Florida,” Bell said. “[DeSantis] has been able to reach across the aisle. He’s been able to win places in Florida that Republicans… just haven’t won. I’d like to grow our party.”
Bell insinuated DeSantis contrasts with Trump in another regard — style.
“I like his always-on-offense style,” Bell said. “He’s always on offense. He’s always moving forward. Florida has been very successful over the last couples of years.”
Some might see this as a shot at former President Trump, who continues to talk about things that happened in the past, such as the 2020 election being “rigged” and “stolen.”
In response to a question about his personal ambitions, Bell said he is not seeking federal office and thinks his skill-set is best utilized in state government.
“I feel like state government’s where I need to be,” Bell said.
Bell did not say for certain whether he intends to run for Speaker of the House, although it has been rumored that he will.
According to sources at the legislature, at least 20 N.C. lawmakers will be unveiling their support for DeSantis in the coming weeks. Reps. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; and Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort, are among those who have endorsed DeSantis, according to Bell’s office.