Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who saw his profile rise within the Republican Party during the coronavirus pandemic due to his opposition to locking down his state, will be the opening speaker of the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday.
DeSantis, who was born on Sept. 14, 1978, was elected Florida's governor in 2018. His refusal to completely lock down his state in 2020 during the pandemic -- which has even included efforts to block local coronavirus restrictions that are more strict than at the state level -- is part of what led CPAC to select Orlando, Fla., for its venue this weekend.
"It was a very intentional decision to go to Florida," American Conservative Union President Matt Schlapp told Fox News.
"We considered other states, Tennessee, Georgia Florida, Texas ... Florida just seems like the obvious place," he said. "You know, the city of Orlando obviously has got the infrastructure to take a big conference. I mean, Las Vegas would have too, but ... the governor there just makes it impossible, is basically making it impossible for any business to be open, whereas the governor of Florida is doing just the opposite."
Fittingly, DeSantis' CPAC welcome speech on Friday is titled "Florida Welcomes CPAC: Open for Business."
Here's what to know about Florida's governor.
He's a veteran
After getting his law degree, DeSantis served in the Navy, where he was a member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps, also known as a JAG. According to his previous biography as a member of the House of Representatives, DeSantis was deployed to Iraq in 2007. Additionally, he served at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
He was?a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus
DeSantis entered Congress in 2013 after winning a seat in the House of Representatives in 2012. There, DeSantis was a part of a robust conservative movement in the House of Representatives at the time, which was largely driven by opposition to former President Obama.
In 2015 he was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus is a group of Republicans who generally more conservative than the typical GOP member, and often a thorn in the side of the party's more moderate leadership.
He went to Yale and Harvard
DeSantis graduated Yale, where he was the captain of the school's baseball team, in 2001 with his bachelor's degree. He then went to Harvard Law School, where he graduated with his J.D. in 2005.
He's received significant criticism for his state's coronavirus response
DeSantis, who balked at issuing a stay-at-home order in Florida for weeks at the outset of the pandemic, first did so on April 1, less than a day after receiving a letter from 13 Democratic members of Congress urging him to "immediately issue a statewide stay-at-home order to save lives." He was then one of the first governors to start widely lifting restrictions.
DeSantis during the pandemic has also battled with reporters at times, who have criticized his reluctance to institute harsh restrictions. This has helped raise his profile within the GOP, leading to a high-profile speaking slot at CPAC.
Florida has seen a middle-of-the-pack rate of deaths per capita during the pandemic, per Statista, while more strict states like New York and New Jersey have seen much higher death rates.
Fox News' Danielle Wallace contributed to this report.