The Florida Republican Party will no longer require candidates to sign a loyalty pledge to qualify for the party’s 2024 primary ballot, seen as a major win for former President Trump.
The pledge would have bound candidates to support the eventual GOP nominee. Trump has refused similar pledges, including those required for primary debates, citing his large lead in national and state polls.
The issue placed him at odds with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seem as Trump’s chief primary rival. If the former president chose not to sign a pledge, he would have been excluded from the state’s general election ballot.
Anti-Trump candidates like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Texas Rep. Will Hurd have also signaled their hesitancy to sign loyalty pledges.
The state party decided to drop the pledge in a vote Friday.
“By putting this in place, whether it was intentional or not, the party looks like it was favoring a certain candidate,” state Sen. Joe Gruters said in the meeting, The Associated Press reported. “This has turned into a proxy battle — the Trump world versus the DeSantis world.”
The move could have also violated national Republican party rules over changing election qualifications too close to an election running date.
“When people say, ‘Well, Trump doesn’t want to sign the loyalty oath,’ it’s not about that. It’s about the party putting up artificial roadblocks that didn’t exist four months ago,” Gruters said.
The Florida GOP initially pitched the pledge as a way to bolster party unity.
“The days of party grifters such as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger using Republican Party resources to secure a title and then weaponize that title against our own team must end,” Florida GOP Chair Christian Ziegler told The Hill in July.
“Contested primaries are part of the process, but we must always remember that the Democrats are the true threat to the America we love, and we must be unified to defeat every single one of them,” he added.
The Hill has reached out to the Trump and DeSantis campaigns for comment.