Rep. Byron Donalds wants to be the next chairman of the House Republican conference so he can keep a strong conservative voice at the leadership table that can keep the GOP principled and expand its appeal to new voters.
The Florida Republican argued during an exclusive interview with Fox News Digital that the conference chair position is key to defining what the Republican Party stands for on Capitol Hill.
"We are going to hit some big hurdles in the next Congress. It's incumbent for the American people to know very clearly what the Republican strategy is for the issues that are facing America," he said. "And what are the policy positions we're going to use to actually get the country back on track."
The first-term lawmaker said his background has given him insight into how to build a message that appeals not just to the base of the GOP, but also the voters it needs to win over to become a majority.
"I'm somebody that found politics at 30 years old," said Donalds. "There are people throughout the United States who have a similar background to mine, who aren't really political people, they're mostly apolitical, but if you actually message to them and start engaging with them, they'll start considering their politics."
"We need more converts to the Republican Party," he added.
Donalds, a former Florida state representative, has garnered significant attention since getting elected to Congress in 2020. He's also raised more than $4.5 million this cycle — a sign of his growing prominence.
Still, Donalds is seen as something of an underdog in his bid to join the House leadership. Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the incumbent Republican conference chair, is running for a second term with the backing of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
"I don’t think it’ll be a race," said McCarthy, R-Calif. "Elise has done an excellent job and will continue to be conference chair."
First elected to the role last May after the ouster of Trump-foe Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Stefanik has raised more than $10 million for GOP incumbents this cycle.
Of that sum more than $3 million has gone directly to the National Republican Congressional Committee, while another $2 million has gone to boosting female candidates through Stefanik's Elevate PAC, political action committee.
Donalds is not daunted by the challenge. He said members of leadership have a built-in advantage for fundraising, but that members would decide the contest on the merits of individual candidates.
"When it comes time to having to battle the left, when it comes time to having to battle the Democrats, all the favors don't help us," said Donalds.
Although the race will not be decided until after the November elections, the contest is getting outsize attention. Part of the reason is that it's the only leadership race being waged publicly for the moment.
The contest is also seen as something of a proxy battle between the various ideological factions within the Republican Party.
Stefanik is backed not only by GOP leaders, but by moderate and centrists. Donalds, on the other hand, has received cheering endorsements from more hard-line members of the House Freedom Caucus.
While Donalds denied that ideological considerations were a factor in his decision to run, he did stress that it was important for there to be a strong conservative voice at the leadership table.
"I don't want to speak about who's there now. The members know I'm a conservative, I'm a strong conservative," said Donalds.