Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in 2020.jpg
DeSantis in 2020
46th Governor of Florida
Assumed office
January 8, 2019
LieutenantJeanette Nuñez
Preceded byRick Scott
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida's 6th district
In office
January 3, 2013 – September 10, 2018
Preceded byCliff Stearns
Succeeded byMichael Waltz
Personal details
Born
Ronald Dion DeSantis

(1978-09-14) September 14, 1978 (age 44)
Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse
(m. 2010)
Children3
ResidenceGovernor's Mansion
Education
WebsiteOfficial website
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/serviceUnited States Navy
Years of service2004–present[1]
RankLieutenant commander
UnitJudge Advocate General's Corps
United States Navy Reserve
Battles/warsIraq War
AwardsBronze Star
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Iraq Campaign Medal

Ronald Dion DeSantis (/dəˈsæntɪs/; born September 14, 1978) is an American politician serving as the 46th governor of Florida since January 2019. A member of the Republican Party, DeSantis represented Florida's 6th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2013 to 2018.

Born in Jacksonville, DeSantis spent most of his childhood in Dunedin, Florida. He graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School. DeSantis joined the United States Navy in 2004 and was promoted to lieutenant before serving as a legal advisor to SEAL Team One; he was deployed to Iraq in 2007. When he returned to the U.S. a year later, the U.S. Department of Justice appointed DeSantis to serve as a Special Assistant U.S. attorney at the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Middle District of Florida, a position he held until his honorable discharge in 2010.

DeSantis was first elected to Congress in 2012, defeating his Democratic opponent Heather Beaven. During his tenure he became a founding member of the Freedom Caucus and was an ally of President Donald Trump. DeSantis frequently criticized Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He briefly ran for U.S. Senate in 2016, but withdrew when incumbent senator Marco Rubio sought reelection.

In August 2018, DeSantis won the Republican nomination for governor, and chose state representative Jeanette Nuñez as his running mate. The close results of the general election between DeSantis and the Democratic nominee, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, triggered a machine recount. DeSantis was certified the winner with a 0.4% margin of victory.

As governor, DeSantis resisted imposing restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic in Florida, including face mask mandates, stay-at-home orders, and vaccination requirements. In May 2021, he signed into law a bill that prohibited businesses, schools, cruise ships, and government entities from requiring proof of vaccination. DeSantis cut spending in Florida, achieving a record budget surplus for the state, and engaged in recovery efforts after Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.[2][3][4] He was reelected in a landslide victory over Charlie Crist in the 2022 Florida gubernatorial election; his 19.4% margin of victory was the state's largest in 40 years.

Early life and education

DeSantis was born on September 14, 1978, in Jacksonville, the son of Karen (née Rogers) and Ronald Daniel DeSantis.[5] He is of Italian descent: all of his eight great-grandparents were born in Italy,[6] and they were originally from comuni in the provinces of L'Aquila, Benevento, Avellino and Campobasso.[7][8] His maternal great-great-grandfather Salvatore Storti immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1904, eventually settling in Pennsylvania. His great-great-grandmother Luigia Colucci joined her husband in the United States in 1917.[8] DeSantis's mother was a nurse and his father installed Nielsen TV rating boxes.[9] His family moved to Orlando, Florida, before relocating to Dunedin, Florida, when he was six years old.[10] His sister Christina Marie DeSantis was born on May 5, 1985, in Orlando and died in 2015.[11] He was a member of the Little League team from Dunedin National that made it to the 1991 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.[12][13] DeSantis attended Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School and Dunedin High School,[9] graduating in 1997.

After high school, DeSantis studied history at Yale University. He was captain of Yale's varsity baseball team and joined the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.[13][14] He was an outfielder on the Yale baseball team; as a senior in 2001, he had the team's best batting average at .336.[15][16][17][18] While attending Yale he worked a variety of jobs, including as an electrician's assistant and a coach at a baseball camp.[9] DeSantis graduated from Yale in 2001 with a B.A. magna cum laude.[19]

After Yale, he taught history and sports for a year at Darlington School. Some former students there say they recall him teaching the Civil War from a perspective that slavery was not okay but that the slaveholding Confederacy arguendo had reason to fight.[20] He subsequently attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 2005 with a Juris Doctor cum laude.[21][22]

Military service

In 2004, during his second year at Harvard Law, DeSantis was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Navy and assigned to the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG). He completed Naval Justice School in 2005. Later that year, he received orders to the JAG Trial Service Office Command South East at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, as a prosecutor. He was promoted from lieutenant, junior grade to lieutenant in 2006. He worked for the commander of Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), working directly with detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Joint Detention Facility.[23][24][25]

In 2007, DeSantis reported to the Naval Special Warfare Command Group in Coronado, California, where he was assigned to SEAL Team One and deployed to Iraq[26] with the troop surge as the legal advisor to the SEAL Commander of the Special Operations Task Force-West in Fallujah.[23][24][25]

DeSantis returned to the U.S. in April 2008, at which time he was reassigned to the Naval Region Southeast Legal Service. The U.S. Department of Justice appointed him to serve as a Special Assistant U.S. attorney[26] at the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Middle District of Florida. DeSantis was assigned as a trial defense counsel until his honorable discharge from active duty in February 2010. He concurrently accepted a reserve commission as a lieutenant in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the US Navy Reserve.[27]

During his military career, DeSantis has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Iraq Campaign Medal.[23][24][25] As of 2022, he is still serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve.[1]

U.S. House of Representatives

2012 election

See also: 2012 United States House of Representatives elections in Florida § District 6

DeSantis' official portrait in the U.S. House of Representatives (c. 2013)
DeSantis' official portrait in the U.S. House of Representatives (c. 2013)

In 2012, DeSantis announced he would run in the Republican primary for Florida's 6th congressional district. The district had previously been the 7th, represented by 10-term Republican John Mica, but Mica's share of Orlando had been drawn into the new 7th District, and Mica opted to run there even though the new 6th included the bulk of his former territory.

DeSantis won the six-candidate Republican primary with 39% of the vote, while the runner-up, state representative Fred Costello, received 23%.[28] In the November general election, DeSantis defeated Democratic nominee Heather Beaven 57–43%, with majorities in all four counties.[29] He was reelected in 2014 and 2016.

Committee assignments

Before the 114th United States Congress, DeSantis was named the chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security.[30]

Legislation

DeSantis speaking at the Hudson Institute in June 2015
DeSantis speaking at the Hudson Institute in June 2015

DeSantis introduced the Faithful Execution of the Law Act of 2014 (H.R. 3973; 113th Congress) in the House on January 29 of that year. The bill would have directed the United States Department of Justice to report to Congress whenever any federal agency refrained from enforcing laws or regulations for any reason.[32][33] In its report, the government would have been required to explain why it had decided not to enforce that law.[34] DeSantis spoke in favor of the bill, arguing that "President Obama has not only failed to uphold several of our nation's laws, he has vowed to continue to do so in order to enact his unpopular agenda. ...The American people deserve to know exactly which laws the Obama administration is refusing to enforce and why."[34] The bill passed in the House but did not become law.[35]

DeSantis signed a 2013 pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity vowing to vote against any global warming legislation that would raise taxes.[36] In 2015, DeSantis was a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, a group of congressional conservatives and libertarians.[25][37][38]

In August 2017, DeSantis added a rider to the proposed fiscal 2018 spending bill package that would end funding for the Mueller investigation "or for the investigation under that order of matters occurring before June 2015" (the month Trump announced he was running for president).[39] The amendment was intended to counter a bipartisan bill written by two Democratic and two Republican U.S. senators which would have limited the president's power to fire the special counsel. The DeSantis amendment sought to cut off the investigation's funding by November 2017.[39] It was also a response to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's statement that the DOJ "doesn't conduct fishing expeditions". DeSantis stated that the DOJ order dated May 17, 2017, "didn't identify a crime to be investigated and practically invites a fishing expedition".[40]

2016 U.S. Senate candidacy

Main article: 2016 United States Senate election in Florida

In May 2015, DeSantis announced his candidacy for the United States Senate seat held by Marco Rubio, who initially did not file to run for reelection due to his bid for the U.S. presidency.[41] He was endorsed by the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.[42] When Rubio ended his presidential bid and ran for reelection to the Senate, DeSantis withdrew from the Senate race and ran for reelection to the House.

Governor of Florida

A county level map of the election
A county level map of the election

2018 election

Main article: 2018 Florida gubernatorial election

In January 2018, DeSantis announced his candidacy for governor of Florida to succeed term-limited Republican incumbent Rick Scott. President Trump had said in December 2017 that he would support DeSantis should he run for governor.[43] During the Republican primary, DeSantis emphasized his support for Trump by running an ad in which DeSantis taught his children how to "build the wall" and say "Make America Great Again" and dressed one of his children in a red "Make America Great Again" jumper.[44] Asked if he could name an issue where he disagreed with Trump, DeSantis did not identify one.[45] On July 30, 2018, Jonathan Martin of The New York Times wrote that the support DeSantis's primary campaign had received demonstrated both Trump's king-making capacity in a Republican-trending state and a "broader nationalization of conservative politics" whereby "a willingness to hurl rhetorical lightning bolts at the left, the media and special counsel Robert S. Mueller can override local credentials, local endorsements and preparedness for a state-based job".[45]

On August 28, 2018, DeSantis won the Republican primary by defeating his main opponent, Adam Putnam. His next opponent was Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum in the general election.[46] The race was "widely seen as a toss-up".[47]

In a televised interview on Fox News, DeSantis made a statement that received widespread media attention, and was interpreted by Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo as a racist dog whistle.[48][49][50][51] According to a profile by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker:[52]

DeSantis began the campaign with a disastrous gaffe, saying on television, "The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up" by electing Gillum. DeSantis insisted that there was no racial motive behind the statement—"He uses a lot of dorky phrases like that," one of his former colleagues told me—and the outrage didn't endure. But his tone deafness created a disadvantage. "We were handling Gillum with kid gloves," the lawyer close to DeSantis told me. "We can't hit the guy, because we're trying to defend the fact that we're not racist."

In September 2018, DeSantis announced state representative Jeanette Núñez as his running mate.[53] He resigned his House seat on September 10, 2018, to focus on his gubernatorial campaign.[54] The same month, DeSantis was criticized by television talk show host Joe Scarborough for not having a fully formed policy platform, and canceled a planned interview with the Tampa Bay Times to have additional time to put together a platform before an in-depth policy interview.[55]

DeSantis was endorsed by the Florida Police Chiefs Association.[56] In the campaign, some sheriffs endorsed DeSantis, while other sheriffs backed Gillum.[57]

DeSantis's gubernatorial platform included support for legislation that would allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry firearms openly.[58] He also supported a law mandating the use of E-Verify by businesses and a state-level ban on sanctuary city protections for undocumented immigrants.[58] DeSantis promised to stop the spread of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee.[58] He expressed support for a state constitutional amendment to require a supermajority vote for any tax increases.[59] DeSantis opposed allowing able-bodied, childless adults to receive Medicaid.[59] He said he would implement a medical cannabis program, while opposing the legalization of recreational cannabis.[59][60][61]

Initial election-night results had DeSantis winning by nearly 100,000 votes, and Gillum conceded.[62] Gillum took back his concession after late-counted ballots brought the race within less than 34,000 votes, a margin of 0.4%. The close margin required an automatic machine recount of the ballots.[63]

A machine recount in three statewide contests (governor, U.S. senator, and agriculture commissioner) began with a November 15 deadline. Although three counties missed the deadline, it was not extended.[64][65] DeSantis was confirmed as the winner and Gillum conceded on November 17.[66]

Tenure

DeSantis and his wife, Casey, with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump in February 2019
DeSantis and his wife, Casey, with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump in February 2019

DeSantis prefiled the oath of office with the Florida secretary of state and became governor on January 8, 2019.[67] The official swearing-in ceremony was held at noon that day. On January 11, DeSantis posthumously pardoned the Groveland Four, four black men falsely convicted of rape in 1949.[68]

DeSantis with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Finance Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in 2019

In January 2019, DeSantis officially suspended Broward County sheriff Scott Israel for his response to the mass shootings at the Fort Lauderdale airport and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, appointing Gregory Tony to replace Israel. In his first two weeks in office, DeSantis appointed Barbara Lagoa, Robert J. Luck and Carlos G. Muñiz to fill the three vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court, shifting the court's majority from liberal to conservative. He replaced the entire South Florida Water Management District board. He signed a $2.5 billion executive order for water quality and Everglades restoration work.[69] In January 2019, DeSantis signed an executive order calling for the end of Common Core in Florida.[70]

In June 2019, DeSantis signed a measure that would make it harder to launch successful ballot initiatives. Petition-gathering for ballot initiatives to legalize medical cannabis, increases to the minimum wage, and expansion of Medicaid were also under way.[71][72][73]

After the 2020 Republican National Convention was pulled from its originally scheduled host city, Charlotte, following conflict between Trump and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper over plans for a large-scale gathering without public-health protocols in place to prevent spread of COVID-19, DeSantis campaigned to have Florida be the new host state.[74] He competed with similar entreaties from Tennessee and Georgia. DeSantis won, with the main festivities of the RNC, including Trump's keynote speech, relocated to Jacksonville.[75][76] Ultimately, the entire event was scrapped in favor of rallies online and on television.[77]

On February 2, 2021, DeSantis announced his support of legislation to crack down on Big Tech and prevent alleged political censorship.[78][79][80] He also announced his support of a number of election law restrictions.[81][82][83][84]

In March 2021, DeSantis proposed legislation to impose restrictions and stricter requirements for Florida universities to collaborate with Chinese academics and universities; he said this would crack down on economic espionage by China.[85][86][87][88] DeSantis signed two such bills in June.[89] In May 2021, he signed a deal with The Seminole Tribe of Florida to allow the tribe to offer statewide online sports betting.[90] In June 2021, DeSantis signed a bill incentivizing wildlife corridors.[91]

In April 2021, DeSantis signed into law the Combating Public Disorder Act he had been advocating. Aside from being an anti-riot statute, it forbade intimidation by mobs; penalized damage to historic properties or memorials, such as downtown Miami's Christopher Columbus statue, which was damaged in 2020; and forbade publishing personal identifying information online with intent to harm.[92] DeSantis had argued for this legislation by citing the George Floyd protests of 2020 and the 2021 United States Capitol attack, although only the former was mentioned at the signing ceremony.[93] Several months after the signing, a federal judge blocked the portion of the law that introduced a new definition of "riot", calling it too vague.[94]

On May 5, 2021, Desantis announced that all Florida police officers, firefighters, and paramedics would receive a $1,000 bonus.[95]

In its 2021 session, the Florida legislature passed DeSantis's top priorities.[96][97] During his tenure, DeSantis had a generally smooth relationship with the Legislature, which enacted many of his proposals.[98]

During 2021, there was speculation that DeSantis would run for president in the 2024 election. On September 7, DeSantis said he thought such speculation was "purely manufactured".[99] During a September 30 appearance on Fox News, he said he would run for reelection as governor in 2022 but was not thinking beyond that.[100] On November 5 he filed to run for reelection as governor, and on November 8 announced that he had done so.[101] In a straw poll conducted at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, DeSantis came in second with 28% of the vote, behind Donald Trump, who received 59%.[102]

On December 2, 2021, DeSantis announced that as part of a $100 million funding proposal for the Florida National Guard, $3.5 million would be allocated to the reactivation of the Florida State Guard, a volunteer state defense force that has been inactive since 1947.[103][104]

In 2022, DeSantis was increasingly seen as a contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Various writers predicted that DeSantis could defeat former president Donald Trump or said that DeSantis is preferable to Trump in view of the January 6 hearings and subsequent straw polls.[105][106][107] This idea gained more traction after the 2022 United States midterm elections, when DeSantis was reelected governor by almost 20 percentage points over Democratic nominee Charlie Crist, while Trump-endorsed candidates, such as Mehmet Oz in the United States Senate race in Pennsylvania, performed poorly.[108][109]

In September 2022, after similar actions by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, an agent of DeSantis recruited 50 newly arrived asylum seekers, mostly from Venezuela, in San Antonio, Texas, and flew them via two chartered planes to the Crestview, Florida airport, where they did not debark, then proceeded to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Attorneys representing the immigrants claimed the refugees were lied to, promised jobs, funds, English lessons, legal services and housing assistance at their destination.[110] The Florida legislature had appropriated $12 million to transport migrants out of the state, funding under the purview of attorney Larry Keefe, DeSantis's public safety czar, who was in charge of immigrant affairs and had a prior relationship with the air carrier. Vertol was paid $615,000 on September 8 for the transport, and received another $980,000 less than two weeks later. The destination community was not notified of the refugees' impending arrival and requirements.[110][111][112][113][114][115] The migrants filed a class-action suit against DeSantis, calling his treatment of them "extreme and outrageous, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community."[116] DeSantis's spokesperson noted that the refugees had all signed a consent form, and called the lawsuit "political theater" by "opportunistic activists" at the expense of "illegal immigrants".[117]

COVID-19 pandemic

See also: COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and COVID-19 pandemic in Florida

This section may be too long and excessively detailed. Please consider summarizing the material while citing sources as needed. (September 2022)
DeSantis sits with Vice President Mike Pence at a local restaurant in May 2020
DeSantis sits with Vice President Mike Pence at a local restaurant in May 2020

2020

In March 2020, DeSantis decided against declaring a state of emergency in Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic.[118][119] Scientists and media outlets have given mixed reviews of DeSantis's handling of the pandemic.[120][121][122] Florida's death rate from COVID-19 (75,000 deaths) ended up being within the national average and Florida's economy fared better than many other U.S. states.[123][124]

Early in the pandemic, DeSantis boasted about the low number of COVID-19 cases in Florida, and harshly criticized those who had argued that the state's lax response to the virus was insufficient.[120][125] Experts argued that delays in lockdown would greatly increase Florida's COVID numbers and leave it susceptible to becoming a new hot spot.[126] DeSantis rejected the implementation of a statewide face mask mandate, belatedly implemented stay-at-home orders, and let his stay-at-home order implemented in April expire.[120]

On March 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention privately briefed DeSantis that Florida was already experiencing community spread of COVID-19. The next day, he publicly denied such a claim.[127] On March 10, federal official Anthony Fauci publicly confirmed that Florida had community spread. DeSantis confirmed Florida's community spread only on March 14.[127]

President Donald Trump and Governor DeSantis discuss COVID-19 prevention efforts in Florida in an April 2020 meeting in the Oval Office of the White House.
President Donald Trump and Governor DeSantis discuss COVID-19 prevention efforts in Florida in an April 2020 meeting in the Oval Office of the White House.

By the end of March 2020, Florida had 6,741 confirmed cases of COVID-19. DeSantis declared that he would not issue a statewide stay-at-home order because the Trump administration had not recommended it.[128] On April 1, he ordered that all Floridians stay home for 30 days with exceptions for essential services and activities.[129] He received criticism for falsely stating on April 9 that COVID-19 had caused no fatalities under 25 in the United States. DeSantis acknowledged this error after critics pointed it out, and clarified that there have been no deaths from the virus in people under 25 in Florida.[130][131] In early June, he partially lifted his stay-at-home order, lifting restrictions on bars and cinemas; the same day he lifted the restrictions, Florida recorded the largest case surge in six weeks.[120]

DeSantis's handling of COVID-19 in Florida was initially unpopular among the state's voters: by May 2020, he was the only U.S. governor whose approval had declined after COVID-19 became widespread in the U.S.[132] But after a few months, DeSantis's reluctance to impose restrictions in response to the pandemic led to an increase in approval, especially among Republican voters.[133]

DeSantis sought to have the 2020 Republican National Convention in Jacksonville. In conversations with Trump in May, he said he would not require the use of face masks.[120] By July, as Florida became a global epicenter of the virus, Trump called off the event.[120] During Trump's reelection campaign, DeSantis worked to help him win Florida. He attended Trump's rallies and high-fived attendees while not wearing a mask, contrary to public health guidance at the time.[134][135]

In June 2020, DeSantis said the bulk of new cases were present in "younger demographics" and argued that increased testing, particularly of asymptomatic individuals, and more efficient identification of outbreaks in areas such as prisons and in Florida's agriculture sector were responsible for most of the increase. He emphasized that the strain on the hospital system and medical supplies such as ventilators had decreased since the previous peak in case numbers, and that Florida was ready to handle any additional influx in hospital patients, adding that the state had "twice as many" open hospital beds than on March 1. DeSantis announced that he would reinstate some restrictions on business activity in late June to halt the virus's spread, but said Florida is "not going back" on reopening the economy, arguing that "people going to a business is not what's driving" the surge in cases. Anthony Fauci said that states reopening faster than federal guidelines were contributing to a rise in cases.[136]

On June 28, 2020, DeSantis said Florida was in "good shape" in its fight against COVID-19.[137] In July 2020, when Florida was a global epicenter of the coronavirus with nearly 5,800 deaths, DeSantis largely sidelined health experts and scientists, with The Washington Post reporting that he relied primarily on his wife, a former television reporter, and his chief of staff, a former hospital executive.[120]

In September 2020, he lifted all restrictions on capacity in bars and restaurants, despite persistent cases.[138][139] He banned cities and counties from collecting fines from face mask mandates[139] and urged public health officials in Florida cities to focus less on universal COVID-19 testing.[140]

The DeSantis administration largely ignored the scientists in Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute, the Sun-Sentinel reported.[127] Instead, in August and September 2020, DeSantis invited to Florida other scientists who endorsed less restrictive COVID-19 policies that he agreed with, so that they could conduct press conferences with him.[127] They included radiologist Scott Atlas, a Trump administration advisor known for spreading misinformation about COVID-19.[14][127]

DeSantis favored reopening schools for in-person learning for the 2020–21 school year.[141] By October 2020, he announced all 67 public school districts were open for in-person learning.[141]

According to a December 2020 article in the Sun-Sentinel, DeSantis "imposed an approach in line with the views of the president and his powerful base of supporters."[121]

2021

Ron DeSantis in Tampa speaking to students, July 2021
Ron DeSantis in Tampa speaking to students, July 2021

By February 2021, DeSantis had generally positive approval ratings, ranging from 51% to 64%.[142][143][144] In March 2021, Politico called him the most "politically ascendant" governor in the country, as his controversial policies had been at that point "short of or even the opposite of ruinous", while Florida had "fared no worse, and in some ways better, than many other states".[145] By August 2021, amid a record in new cases within the state, Florida had become the state with the highest per capita hospitalizations for COVID-19.[146] By April 2021, Florida was 27th out of 50 in both cases and deaths per capita.[147] A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found substantial underreporting of deaths from COVID-19 in Florida from March to September 2020. Experts noted similar underreporting had occurred throughout the nation.[148][149]

In February 2021, DeSantis threatened to withhold COVID-19 vaccines from counties that criticized the manner in which vaccines were distributed.[150][151] The same month, the Biden administration mulled imposing travel restrictions on Florida and other domestic locations to prevent further spread of COVID-19.[152][153] DeSantis expressed his discontent with what he characterized as "trying to shut FL's border" and announced his intention to fervently oppose it if executed.[154][155]

On May 3, 2021, DeSantis signed an executive order officially rescinding the state of emergency and all COVID-19-related public health orders. This order superseded all local public health orders and prohibited municipalities from enacting any further public health order related to COVID-19.[156][157][158] The same day, he signed a bill into law that prohibited businesses, cruise ships, schools, and government entities from requiring proof of vaccination for use of services.[159][160]

In July 2021, Florida experienced a record surge in COVID-19 cases, setting a new daily case record on July 30 and accounting for around 1 in 5 new infections in the country.[161] Amid the resurgence, DeSantis banned public schools from implementing mask mandates, claiming without evidence that masks were harmful to children,[162] and in August 2021 he threatened to fine, withhold funding, or withhold salary from any school district or school official who did so.[163] Previously, data released by the Florida Department of Health had tied over 100,000 COVID-19 cases to Florida private and public K-12 schools from September 2020 to April 2021.[164] In late August, the DeSantis administration ordered Alachua and Broward school districts to reverse their mask mandates or face a reduction in state funding, leading the districts' leaders to declare that they would take legal action in response.[165]

In August 2021, President Biden singled out Florida and Texas as "states with low vaccination rates" that "account for one third of all new COVID-19 cases in the entire country". Biden added, "if some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it."[166] DeSantis responded, "We will not allow Joe Biden and his bureaucratic flunkies to come in and commandeer the rights and freedoms of Floridians."[167] He also said, "No elected official is doing more to enable the transmission of COVID in America than Joe Biden with his open borders policies."[168] The Washington Post reported that this claim was based on "guesswork and assumptions, not evidence", while PolitiFact reported that COVID-19 hot spots tend to be clustered far from the border, in places with low rates of public vaccination, not along the southern border, as would be expected if migrants were driving the surge in cases.[166][168] Moreover, the U.S. does not have an open borders policy, as most migrants at the southern border are prevented from entering the country by Title 42.[166][168]

On August 27, 2021, Judge John Cooper ruled that DeSantis could not ban mask mandates in schools.[169] The state appealed, automatically suspending Cooper's ruling while the appeal was considered, but Cooper overruled that suspension on September 8, lifting DeSantis's ban, citing the need to protect unvaccinated children.[170]

DeSantis has heavily promoted monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19, which can treat people after they get sick and reduce hospitalization.[171] One such medication is made by Regeneron, which is a major investment of DeSantis's largest political donor.[172] At a September press conference, DeSantis said that local governments will face a $5,000 fine for imposing vaccine mandates.[173] He said government agency vaccine mandates violate the state's law banning private businesses from requiring vaccine passports for customers.[173] At the event, a number of speakers spoke out against the vaccine and vaccine mandates, including one person who falsely claimed the vaccine "changes your RNA".[173]

On September 21, 2021, DeSantis appointed Joseph Ladapo, a vocal supporter of his COVID-19 policies, as Florida's surgeon general.[174][175][176] Ladapo has a history of promoting unproven treatments against COVID-19, opposes COVID-19 vaccine requirements, has questioned the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, and has associated with America's Frontline Doctors, a pro-Trump healthcare group known for promoting falsehoods about the pandemic.[175][177]

In October 2021, DeSantis offered to pay police officers $5,000 to relocate to and work in Florida, making a specific appeal to officers who refused to comply with vaccine requirements.[178]

On November 18, 2021, DeSantis signed a legislative package into law, officially making Florida the first state[179] to impose fines on businesses and hospitals that require inoculation against COVID-19 without exemptions or alternatives.[180][181][182] The legislation was signed a day after Florida Republican lawmakers passed his anti-mandate agenda.[183][184] DeSantis called it "the strongest piece of legislation that's been enacted anywhere in the country" in opposition to COVID-19 vaccination mandates.[185]

2022

In May 2022, a Bloomberg News op-ed claimed that, when adjusting state death tolls based on what they would be if age distribution were equal between the states, Florida's COVID-19 death toll would be less than the national average and only slightly more than California's. The op-ed also found that young people have been far more likely to die from COVID-19 in Florida than California, probably because children were in physical schools in Florida during the 2020-21 school year.[123]

In June 2022, DeSantis decided against ordering COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5, making Florida the only state not to preorder vaccines for that demographic.[186]

2022 reelection

Main article: 2022 Florida gubernatorial election

A county level map of the election
A county level map of the election

In October 2021, DeSantis announced that he was running for reelection.[187] His Democratic opponent was Charlie Crist, a former Florida governor and U.S. representative.[188] Crist left the Republican Party in 2010 to become an independent, before joining the Democratic Party in 2012. Crist heavily criticized DeSantis's decision to deport illegal immigrants to Democratic states, arguing that it was human rights abuse.[189] During an interview with Brett Baier on Fox News, Crist said that DeSantis was "one of the biggest threats to democracy".[190] During the gubernatorial debate, which was held on October 23, DeSantis called Crist a "worn-out old donkey" in response to a question Crist asked DeSantis on whether he would serve another full four-year term.[191] DeSantis also mentioned that Crist promised in his 2006 gubernatorial campaign that he would not raise taxes, but when elected signed a large increase in taxes and fees.[191]

In the November 8 election, DeSantis defeated Crist. Many news outlets called his win a "landslide".[192][193][194] Having won over 1,500,000 more votes than Crist, a margin of 19.4%, DeSantis's margin of victory was Florida's largest since 1982.[195] He won Miami-Dade County, which had been a Democratic stronghold since 2002, and Palm Beach County, which before this had not voted Republican since 1986.[196][197]

Political positions

Further information: Political positions of Ron DeSantis

Abortion

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's Dobbs decision, which returned abortion rights back to the states, DeSantis pledged to "expand pro-life protections".[198] On April 14, 2022, he signed into law a bill that bans elective abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy; under the previous law, the limit had been 24 weeks.[199] The law includes exceptions permitting termination of a viable pregnancy beyond 15 weeks if at least two physicians certify that it is necessary to avert a "serious risk" to the pregnant woman's physical health or that the fetus has a "fatal fetal abnormality", but does not make exceptions for rape, human trafficking, incest, or mental health.[200]

The statute prohibits partial birth abortion, experimentation on fetuses, and harming infants born alive during or immediately after an attempted abortion. It also enforces previously enacted minimum health and safety standards for third-trimester abortion and standards for humane and sanitary disposal of fetal remains that had not been enforced due to U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Abortion providers found in violation of the statute's provisions can be charged with up to a third-degree felony. The provisions generally apply only to physicians who perform abortions, but any health care employee of an abortion provider can be charged with a felony for failure to report violations.[201]

The law was expected to go into effect on July 1,[202] but a state judge blocked its enforcement, ruling that the Florida Constitution guarantees a right to privacy that renders the law unconstitutional.[203][204] After DeSantis appealed the ruling, the law went into effect on July 5, pending judicial review.[205] Floridians anticipated a state Supreme Court decision on the law's validity. Before the Dobbs decision upheld the Mississippi law that inspired Florida's, the Supreme Court of Florida had cited the privacy argument to invalidate a similar state law. Although Dobbs overruled Roe v. Wade's holding that privacy rights secured a federal right to abortion until viability, that decision concerned the scope of an unenumerated right held to be implicit in the U.S. Constitution's broader guarantees of liberty or due process.[206][clarification needed]

Economy

DeSantis has said that the debate over how to reduce the federal deficit should shift emphasis from tax increases to curtailing spending and triggering economic growth.[207] He supports a "no budget no pay" policy for Congress to encourage the passage of a budget.[208] He believes the Federal Reserve System should be audited.[209]

In the wake of the alleged IRS targeting controversy, DeSantis called for IRS commissioner John Koskinen's resignation for having "failed the American people by frustrating Congress's attempts to ascertain the truth".[210][211] He co-sponsored a bill to impeach Koskinen for violating the public's trust.[212] Citizens Against Government Waste, a conservative think tank, named DeSantis a "Taxpayer Superhero" in 2015.[213]

He supported the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which would require that regulations that have a significant economic impact be subject to a vote of Congress prior to taking effect.[214]

DeSantis introduced the Let Seniors Work Act, which would repeal the Retirement Earnings Test and exempt senior citizens from the 12.4% Social Security payroll tax, and co-sponsored a measure to eliminate taxes on Social Security benefits.[215]

He sponsored the Transportation Empowerment Act, which would transfer much of the responsibility for transportation projects to the states and sharply reduce the federal gas tax.[216][217]

DeSantis has opposed legislation to require online retailers to collect and pay state sales tax.[218]

He voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.[219] He said the bill would bring a "dramatically lower tax rate", "full expensing of capital investments", and more jobs to America.[220]

As a result of a significant increase in gasoline prices, DeSantis would announce on November 22, 2021, that he would be temporarily waiving the state's gasoline tax in the next legislative session in 2022.[221]

Education

This section may be too long and excessively detailed. Please consider summarizing the material while citing sources as needed. (September 2022)

DeSantis opposes federal education programs such as No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top, saying that education policy should be made at the local level.[209]

DeSantis introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act, which would allow states to create their own accreditation systems, in 2016. In an op-ed for National Review, he said his legislation would give students "access to federal loan money to put towards non-traditional educational opportunities, such as online learning courses, vocational schools, and apprenticeships in skilled trades".[222]

In June 2021, DeSantis led an effort to ban the teaching of critical race theory in Florida public schools (though it had not been a part of Florida public school curriculum). He described critical race theory as "teaching kids to hate their country", mirroring a similar push by conservatives nationally.[223] The Florida Board of Education approved the ban on June 10. The Florida Education Association criticized the ban, accusing the Board of trying to hide facts from students. Other critics claimed the ban was an effort to "politicize classroom education and whitewash American history".[224]

On December 15, 2021, DeSantis announced a new bill, the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (WOKE) Act, which would allow parents to sue school districts that teach their children critical race theory. The bill is designed to combat "woke indoctrination" in Florida businesses and schools by preventing instruction that could make some people feel that they bear "personal responsibility" for historic wrongdoings because of their race, gender or national origin, preventing instruction that teaches that individuals are "inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.", and preventing instruction that teaches that groups of people are oppressed or privileged based on their race, gender or national origin. He said of the bill: "No taxpayer dollars should be used to teach our kids to hate our country or hate each other."[225][226][227][228] On August 18, 2022, a Florida judge blocked the act, saying that it violates the First Amendment and is too vague.[229]

DeSantis signed three education bills into law on June 22, 2021,[230] and suggested that state colleges and universities could lose funding if they were found to promote "stale ideology" and "indoctrination". He offered no specific examples of students being indoctrinated by Florida higher education institutions.[231] House Bill 233 requires institutions to annually “assess the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at that institution using a survey adopted by the State Board of Education", while House Bill 5 and Senate Bill 1108 introduce new requirements for civics education, including lessons on the "evil of communist and totalitarian regimes".[232] Critics of the laws, including the Florida Education Association, claim they will have a "chilling effect on intellectual and academic freedom" and that the bills were designed to intimidate educators and suppress the free exchange of ideas.[233][234]

DeSantis announced that Florida would replace the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) test with a system of smaller tests scattered throughout the year on September 14, 2021. He said the replacement would be three tests for the fall, winter and spring, each smaller than the FSA. Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran agreed with the decision, calling it a "huge victory for the school system". The new system is to be implemented by the 2022–23 school year.[235] DeSantis signed a bill (SB 1048) ending the FSA testing on March 15, 2022. The new bill mandates a "progress monitoring system" that tests students three times a year, at the beginning, middle and end of each school year. The Florida Education Association criticized the bill, saying it failed to reduce the standardized testing done on students or "eliminate the big make-or-break test at the end of year."[236] Corcoran praised the bill, saying the monitoring caters to students, gives teachers more easily available data, and is "much more helpful to parents, and most importantly, it's beneficial to students".[237]

On March 22, 2022, DeSantis signed into law bill SB 1054, which requires students entering high school starting in the 2023–24 school year to take a financial literacy course. Florida is the largest U.S. state to mandate a financial literacy course.[238]

On May 9, 2022, DeSantis signed House Bill 395, mandating that schools observe the traditional Soviet October Revolution Day on November 7 as Victims of Communism Day by devoting 45 minutes to teaching about communism, the role of Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and other communist leaders in history, and "how people suffered under those regimes".[239]

Environment

DeSantis has called himself a "Teddy Roosevelt conservationist". During his 2018 gubernatorial run, he said that he did not deny climate change's existence, but did not want to be labeled a "climate change believer",[240] adding, "I think we contribute to changes in the environment, but I'm not in the pews of the global warming left."[241]

One of the more environmentally friendly Republicans, DeSantis signed an executive order in 2019 that included a variety of components relating to the environment.[citation needed] These included a promise to spend $2.5 billion over four years on restoring the Everglades and "other water protection", and the creation of a Blue-Green Algae Task Force, an Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency, and a Chief Science Officer.[citation needed]

DeSantis supports banning hydraulic fracturing.[240] On July 10, 2020, he announced that Florida would spend $8.6 million out of $166 million received by the state from a legal settlement between Volkswagen and the United States Department of Justice relating to emission violations to add 34 charging stations for electric cars. The stations would be along Interstates 4, 75, 95, 275 and 295.[242] On June 16, 2021, DeSantis signed into law House Bill 839, which bans local governments in Florida from requiring gas stations to add electric car charging stations.[243]

On June 21, 2021, DeSantis signed into law House Bill 919, which prohibits local governments from placing bans or restrictions on any source of electricity. Several sizable cities in Florida at that time (Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Dunedin, Largo, Satellite Beach, Gainesville, Sarasota, Safety Harbor and Miami Beach) were setting goals to get all their energy from renewable sources. The bill was described as similar to those in other states (Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona and Oklahoma) that passed laws preventing cities from banning natural gas hookups.[244][245]

Gun law

DeSantis opposes gun control. He received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.[246] He generally opposes firearm regulation, saying, "Very rarely do firearms restrictions affect criminals. They really only affect law-abiding citizens."[247]

After the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, DeSantis expressed his support for hiring retired law enforcement officers and military veterans as armed guards for schools.[248] He disagreed with legislation Governor Rick Scott signed that banned bump stocks, added a mandatory three-day waiting period for gun purchases, and raised the legal age for purchases from 18 to 21.[24] He has expressed support for measures to improve federal background checks for purchasing firearms and has said that there is a need to intervene with those who are exhibiting warning signs of committing violence instead of waiting until a crime has been committed.[248]

In November 2020, DeSantis proposed an "anti-mob" extension to the preexisting stand-your-ground law in Florida that would allow gun-owning residents to use deadly force on individuals they believe are looting. It would also make blocking traffic during a protest a third-degree felony and impose criminal penalties for partaking in "violent or disorderly assemblies".[249]

Immigration

DeSantis was a critic of Obama's immigration policies; he opposed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and accused him of failing to enforce immigration laws.[250][251] DeSantis has sought to ban "sanctuary cities".[252] He co-sponsored the Establishing Mandatory Minimums for Illegal Reentry Act of 2015, also known as Kate's Law, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to increase penalties applicable to aliens who unlawfully reenter the U.S. after being removed.[253] DeSantis encouraged Florida sheriffs to cooperate with the federal government on immigration-related issues.[254] In June 2019, he signed an anti-"sanctuary city" bill into law. Florida had no sanctuary cities before the law's enactment, and immigration advocates called the bill politically motivated.[255][256][257][258]

DeSantis's administration allocated $12 million for relocating migrants to other states.[112]

Law enforcement

DeSantis opposes efforts to defund the police, and as governor has introduced initiatives to "fund the police".[259] In September 2021, DeSantis introduced a $5,000 signing bonus for Florida police officers in a bid to attract additional out-of-state police recruits.[260]

LGBT rights

DeSantis has a "0" rating from the Human Rights Campaign for his voting record on LGBT-related issues and legislation.[261][262] In 2018, he told the Sun-Sentinel that he "doesn't want any discrimination in Florida, I want people to be able to live their life, whether you're gay or whether you're religious."[263]

On June 1, 2021, DeSantis signed the Fairness in Women's Sports Act (SB 1028). It bans transgender girls and women from participating and competing in middle-school and high-school girls' and college women's sports competitions in Florida. The law took effect on July 1.[264][265][266][267][268][269]

In February 2022, DeSantis voiced his support for the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act, often denigrated as the "Don't Say Gay" law by its opponents, which would prohibit instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in school classrooms from kindergarten to grade 3. He said it was "entirely inappropriate" for teachers and school administrators to talk to students about their gender identity.[270][271][272] DeSantis signed the bill into law on March 28, 2022, and it took effect on July 1.[273] In response to The Walt Disney Company's opposition to the bill, and amid an ongoing feud between DeSantis and Disney, DeSantis suggested that the Florida legislature revoke Disney World's special self-governing privileges over its 25,000-acre (10,000-hectare) property—privileges granted to the company in 1967. On April 22, 2022, he signed a bill to repeal the Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to self-govern its district, by June 2023.[274]

Technology companies

In response to social media networks removing Trump from their platforms, DeSantis and other Florida Republicans pushed legislation in the Florida legislature to prohibit technology companies from de-platforming political candidates.[275] A federal judge blocked the law by preliminary injunction the day before it was to take effect, on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment and federal law.[276] When Twitter suspended DeSantis administration critic Rebekah Jones' account for violating rules against spam and platform manipulation, DeSantis's office applauded the decision, calling it "long overdue".[277][278]

Term limits and pensions

DeSantis opted not to receive his congressional pension, and filed a measure that would eliminate pensions for members of Congress.[209] After introducing the End Pensions in Congress Act, DeSantis said, "The Founding Fathers envisioned elected officials as part of a servant class, yet Washington has evolved into a ruling class culture."[279]

DeSantis supports a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress, so that U.S. representatives would be limited to three terms and senators to two.[280] As of 2022, he has served three terms as a U.S. representative.[281]

Response to Hurricane Ian

DeSantis in North Port dealing with the aftermath of Ian.
DeSantis in North Port dealing with the aftermath of Ian.

Further information: Hurricane Ian

In September 2022, DeSantis declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida as Ian approached.[282] On October 5, after Ian deserted Florida, President Joe Biden arrived in Florida and met with DeSantis and Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.[283] DeSantis and Biden held a press conference in Fort Myers to report on the status of the cleanup.[284] In addition, DeSantis partnered with Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, Inc., to use the Starlink satellite Internet service to help restore communication across the state.[285]

First lady Casey DeSantis partnered with State Disaster Recovery Mental Health Coordinator Sara Newhouse and the Department of Health and Department of Children and Families to deploy free mental health resources to communities Ian affected.[286]

Voting rights

DeSantis expressed support for the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative after it passed in November 2018, saying that he was "obligated to faithfully implement [it] as it is defined" when he became governor. After he refused to restore the voting rights for felons with unpaid fines, which voting rights groups said was inconsistent with the results of the referendum, he was challenged in court. The Florida Supreme Court sided with DeSantis on the issue,[287] and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit also sided with DeSantis in a 6–4 ruling.[288]

In April 2019, DeSantis directed Florida's elections chief to expand the availability of Spanish-language ballots and Spanish assistance for voters. In a statement, DeSantis said "It is critically important that Spanish-speaking Floridians are able to exercise their right to vote without any language barriers."[289]

DeSantis instructed Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to investigate allegations of voter fraud perpetrated by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg after he announced a $16 million investment to pay off the financial obligations for felons so they may vote ahead of the 2020 presidential election in Florida. The allegations asserted Bloomberg had broken the law by offering incentives to vote.[290]

After the 2020 U.S. elections, DeSantis and other Republicans proposed changes to Florida election laws. DeSantis called for eliminating ballot drop boxes, as well as limiting voting by mail by requiring that voters re-register every year to vote by mail and requiring that signatures on mail-in ballots "must match the most recent signature on file" (rather than any of the voter's signatures in the Florida system).[291][292] The changes to mail-in voting were notable given that Republicans had historically voted by mail more than Democrats, but Democrats outvoted Republicans by mail in 2020.[291] According to a Tampa Bay Times analysis, DeSantis's signature match proposal could have led to rejections of his own mail-in ballots due to changes in his signature history over time; voting rights experts argued that the signature matching proposal could be used to disenfranchise voters whose signatures varied over time.[292]

Personal life

Ron and Casey DeSantis in January 2019
Ron and Casey DeSantis in January 2019

DeSantis is a Roman Catholic.[293] He married Casey Black, a former television host for the Golf Channel and WJXT, in 2009.[294] The couple lived in Ponte Vedra Beach, near St. Augustine, until it was drawn into the neighboring 4th district. They then moved to Palm Coast, north of Daytona Beach.[295][296] They have three children.[297] DeSantis is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.[298]

DeSantis played on the field the day of the 2017 congressional baseball shooting, and while not present at the time it occurred, he and fellow Representative Jeff Duncan reportedly met the perpetrator beforehand and were asked by him whether Republicans or Democrats were playing that day.[299]

Electoral history

Main article: Electoral history of Ron DeSantis

Publications

References

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U.S. House of Representatives Preceded byCliff Stearns Member of the U.S. House of Representativesfrom Florida's 6th congressional district 2013–2018 Succeeded byMichael Waltz Party political offices Preceded byRick Scott Republican nominee for Governor of Florida 2018, 2022 Most recent Political offices Preceded byRick Scott Governor of Florida 2019–present Incumbent U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial) Preceded byKamala Harrisas Vice President Order of precedence of the United States Within Florida Succeeded byMayor of cityin which event is held Succeeded byOtherwise Nancy Pelosias Speaker of the US House of Representatives Preceded byGretchen Whitmeras Governor of Michigan Order of precedence of the United States Outside Florida Succeeded byGreg Abbottas Governor of Texas