The Florida Republican Party approved the change at its mid-May executive council meeting and included the new provisions an updated version of its bylaws which he filed with state election officials but was not widely distributed.
The new oath, which includes a promise to « endorse » the GOP candidate and requires a candidate to pledge not to run as an independent or third-party candidate, mirrors the language adopted by the Republican National Committee for its first debate. It’s a major hurdle since the Florida presidential primary will be a winner-take-all contest in which 125 delegates will be at stake.
« We were trying to be consistent with what the debate was calling for, » said Florida Republican Party vice chairman Evan Power, who said campaigns have been notified of the changes. « I don’t think this will be a surprise. »
Florida’s Republicans’ change comes amid a constant back-and-forth by some Republican presidential candidates about whether to support the candidate, especially if it’s Trump, who remains mired in legal troubles. Chris Christie called a loyalty pledge a « useless idea » and said it wasn’t necessary until Trump arrived.
DeSantis dodged a question last month about whether he would « support » Trump if he were the candidate, though he added at a subsequent campaign event that candidates should « respect the outcome of the process. » Trump himself has been equivocal about backing the candidate, saying in a radio interview earlier this year that he would depend on who he was.
Neither DeSantis’ nor Trump’s campaign immediately responded to a request for comment Wednesday.
In addition to the governor and former president, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is also running for the GOP presidential nomination.
Candidates wishing to take the primary ballot have until November 22 to deliver a signed and notarized pledge. The party is required to submit the final list of candidates to state election officials by Nov. 30.
Florida Republicans also made other changes to the requirements to participate in the primary ballot, including introducing additional requirements designed to entice GOP candidates to attend the party’s « Florida Freedom Summit » scheduled for early November.
Candidates who agree to participate in the summit only need to pay a $25,000 qualifying fee to enter the March 19 primary, while those who skip the party event will have to pay $100,000. A candidate can avoid paying the fee if he collects the signatures of Florida Republicans to cast his ballot, but that has been increased from a total of 3,375 signatures in 2015 to a total of 56,000 now.
« The goal is for people to come to the top, » Florida Republican Party chairman Christian Ziegler said in a telephone interview. “We want them to come to our big period event.”
Ziegler added that the previous signature requirement was too low and easy for someone with a mailing list to find. She said party officials looked at what it takes to vote for governor — which is more than 144,000 — and went with a smaller amount than that.
Power said the executive council passed the changes easily, with the only real debate over the right number for the petition signing requirement.
« Nobody was upset about it at the time, » Power said.