Mr Poots’s father, Charlie Poots, was one of the DUP’s founding members alongside Ian Paisley senior in 1971.
The agriculture minister began his career on Lisburn City Council before being elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998. Prior to his position as agriculture minister, he was responsible for culture, environment and health.
As agriculture minister, he was responsible for implementing the checks required under the Northern Ireland Protocol – a trade mechanism that has proved divisive. Mr Poots was vocally opposed to the post-Brexit trading arrangements, describing them as “frankly ridiculous”, while Ms Foster was accused of not being vehement enough in her opposition to the protocol by some in her party’s right.
On the party’s religious fundamentalist wing, Mr Poots has expressed a number of hardline opinions, including belief in young Earth creationism and opposition to LGBT+ rights.
Speaking to toThe Times’s Matthew Parris in 2007, the DUP candidate said: “My view on the Earth is that it’s a young Earth. My view is 4000BC.”
Fighting the ruling to extend adoption rights to LGBT+ couples in Northern Ireland, Mr Poots told Stormont in 2013: “The natural order – whether one believes in God in evolution – is for a man and a woman to have a child and therefore that has made my views on adoption very clear and on raising children very clear, that it should be a man and a woman that raises a child.”
He also described gay civil partnerships as “unnatural in the first instance ... abominable in the second instance” in 2005.
Mr Poots may appeal to the party’s fundamentalist grassroots, some of whom were angered by Ms Foster’s decision to abstain in the vote on banning LGBT+ conversion therapy.
Several DUP constituency groups had written letters expressing concern at the move, the Belfast News Letter reported.
When he announced his leadership bid last month, the Lagan Valley Assembly member said: “I am a proud Northern Ireland man, I love its people and its place, and it faces many challenging times, it’s with that in mind, I’m putting my name forward for the leadership for the Democratic Unionist Party.”
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