Hundreds of miles from his Congressional district, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis launched his run for Governor Monday in a Boca Raton ballroom.
DeSantis, backed by Pres. Donald Trump and a national network of right-wing financiers, was able even before the launch to set himself up as an alternative to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
After introductions from speakers including Rep. Brian Mast and Puerto Rican politician Jennifer Gonzalez, none of which discussed Florida issues in any way whatsoever, Florida’s newest candidate for Governor took the stand.
Much of DeSantis’ speech would have been suitable for a run for an office in D.C. rather than Tallahassee.
“We’re running and we’re going to win this race,” DeSantis said to ballroom applause, before thanking figures like Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, and Trump (none of whom deal with Tallahassee issues) for their support.
DeSantis extolled the benefits of the federal tax reform bill (“big dividends and fatter paychecks”), saying that the bill is a “rip-roaring success for our country.”
DeSantis lauded the Trump administration for “moving mountains” to get business-burdening regulations, before moving into foreign policy discussion.
“The ISIS caliphate lies in ruins,” DeSantis said, “and America is back on the march against Islamic terrorists.”
From there, the discussion moved toward Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — at his urging. And more, much more, about Trump/DeSantis ties. And more about DeSantis’ “blue-collar” background.
“There’s no free lunch. But there’s a lot of honor in a hard day’s work,” DeSantis said, before pivoting to discussing his service in the United States Navy.
“I saw a connection between service in the military and service in the Congress,” DeSantis said, before decrying the “permanent political class” in D.C. — including Sen. Harry Reid, a Nevada politician who rarely features in Florida political debates.
More discussion of DeSantis’ record in Congress followed as the noon hour came and went, an hour past the event’s start time.
“Since I got elected, I’ve been every day a force to change Washington, but I never let Washington change me,” DeSantis said.
Finally, the pivot to state issues came.
DeSantis said his priorities as governor would include securing Florida’s future, safe neighborhoods, and safe streets.
He credited Gov. Scott with “exemplary leadership” during hurricanes, and creating “1.4 million jobs.”
“We can’t have the insiders pick the candidate in 2018. We need someone who is going to follow Rick Scott’s legacy and shake things up,” DeSantis said.
“Florida cannot afford to adopt policies that make it hard to create jobs,” DeSantis said, setting up a straw man contrast between Florida and Connecticut.
DeSantis also wants to “improve education in the state of Florida,” though — taking a line from Adam Putnam and Gwen Graham both — “this doesn’t mean that every student needs to go to a four-year school,” citing “vocational training” as a focus.
As well, DeSantis wants to improve citizenship education — which may or may not help with STEM skills, but was a strong applause line.
Additionally, DeSantis addressed “the drug epidemic,” vowing “tough enforcement for the lowlife trash who peddle these pills.”
DeSantis also supports Scott’s efforts to “drain the swamp” in Tallahassee, decrying the “dominance of lobbyists in Tallahassee” and vowing to “put the brakes” on the “revolving door” between lobbying and state government.
DeSantis made his opening pitch. Expect opposing campaigns, such as Putnam’s, and committees, such as Richard Corcoran‘s Watchdog PAC, to offer spirited counternarrative.