Enrique Tarrio, a leading member of the controversial Proud Boys group, registered Friday to run as a Republican candidate in 2020 against Rep. Donna Shalala, Florida Democrat.
Mr. Tarrio filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to compete in next year’s race for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, which includes parts of Miami and the surrounding area.
Established in 2016, the Proud Boys is a fraternal group comprised of self-described “Western chauvinists.” Mr. Tarrio was named as its chairman last November after the group’s former leader, Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, stepped down amid several members facing criminal charges over a violent street brawl that erupted in New York City the previous month.
Jacob Engels, a right-wing activist associated with Mr. Tarrio, issued a statement attributed to the newly declared congressional candidate.
“Our founders were simple men who wanted a world away from tyranny and away from government interference into our lives. A place to raise their children, watch their families grow and build their businesses. A place to worship freely and speak freely,” Mr. Tarrio said in the statement.
“Unfortunately, career politicians like Donna Shalala have become obsessed with moving America away from these founding principles and towards a Communist police state that thrives on robbing us [of] our God given freedoms. Shalala is more concerned about being Hillary Clinton’s puppet than serving the needs of District 27,” Mr. Tarrio added.
Ms. Shalala was elected to the House in 2018 after winning the seat held for decades by former Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican.
A message requesting comment from her reelection campaign was not immediately returned.
Several members of the Proud Boys were arrested in October 2018 in connection with a fight that broke out following an appearance by Mr. McInnes at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan. Mr. McInnes subsequently announced he was officially disassociation himself from the group to “show jurors they are not dealing with a gang and there is no head of operations.”
Mr. Tarrio, a Miami native, previously acknowledged attending the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a local anti-racist activist was murdered when a participant drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.
Twitter subsequently suspended several accounts associated with the Proud Boys, including Mr. Tarrio’s and Mr. McInnes’, on the eve of a follow-up rally being held a year later in Washington, D.C., citing violations of the platform’s policy prohibiting violent extremist groups.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that members of the Proud Boys planned the 2018 rally. In fact, Mr. McInnes tweeted prior to being suspended from Twitter that the Proud Boys have “nothing to do” with the event “and won’t go near it.”