Ron DeSantis Archives - Florida Politics

Ron DeSantis, Andrew Gillum back boosting vocational programs

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum have vast differences in their education policy proposals, but they agree on one area: Not everybody needs to get a four-year college degree.

Although the details are somewhat scant, DeSantis and Gillum this week emphasized their support for energizing Florida’s technical and vocational programs as part of their overall education priorities.

“We are going to add major investments in jobs and skills training,” said Gillum, a Florida A&M University graduate and former student leader. “While college worked for me, for my older siblings, it was access to woodwork and shop and mechanical and technical degree programs that allowed them to gain a skill that they could monetize, go to work and get a good job.”

Gillum gave credit for the visibility of the issue to Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who made the issue a top priority during his gubernatorial primary campaign against DeSantis.

Among other issues, Putnam noted that more than half of the jobs expected to be created in Florida’s fastest-growing employment sectors by 2025 will require advanced training but less than a four-year degree.

Putnam, who lost in the Aug. 28 GOP primary, also noted that while Florida’s Bright Futures merit-scholarship program will receive a record $523 million this year, the scholarships for vocational students represent only 1 percent of the students receiving those awards.

Of the 103,000 Bright Futures scholars this academic year, state analysts project only 1,000 will qualify for the “Gold Seal” vocational scholarships. Putnam noted that Florida had more than 10,600 Gold Seal scholars when the Bright Futures program began in 1997.

 “I believe there can be bipartisan agreement around our need to reinvest in those early skills programs that don’t allow for any of our students’ talents to go to waste,” Gillum said.

DeSantis made similar comments Tuesday after touring a science and technology school in Okaloosa County.

He said he would support enhancing programs that let students earn industry or technical certifications while in high school, allowing them to more quickly enter the state’s workforce rather than pursuing four-year degrees.

“You then can go and get gainful employment, maybe you do some more training, but you’re not having to go $100,000 into debt, get a degree in zombie studies and then end up in a job you could have had out of high school anyways,” said DeSantis, who is a Harvard-educated lawyer.

But Gillum and DeSantis are likely to clash on other higher-education issues.

Gillum criticized DeSantis, a former congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach, for supporting a budget plan in the U.S. House in 2015 that sought to freeze Pell grants for 10 years as a cost-cutting move. Pell grants, which currently have an annual cap of $6,095, are awarded to students from low-income families and do not have to be paid back.

“He voted for a 30 percent cut in Pell grants over the next 10 years,” Gillum said. “I don’t know if this point has been lost on Mr. DeSantis or not, the candidate for governor of the state of Florida, but 41 percent of Florida tuition is covered by Pell grants.”

As of the fall of 2016, 38 percent of the students enrolled in public universities in Florida were on Pell grants, according to the state university system’s Board of Governors. Some 63 percent of the students at Florida A&M University were on Pell grants, as well as more than half of the students at Florida International University, according to the data.

House Republicans defended the proposed Pell grant freeze, which was not enacted, as a means of making the program “more sustainable.” A memo in support of the plan noted the grants had been expanded to more students from higher-income families.

“Increasing eligibility to those with higher incomes drains resources from those who need the most help,” the memo said. “Our budget adopts a sustainable Pell grant maximum.”

This report includes information from David Bishop of FLA News.

Yard signs: Florida Realtors announce November election endorsements

Florida Realtors PAC, the political arm of the state’s largest professional association, issued endorsements in statewide races and a bundle of legislative districts Wednesday.

The group released three waves of endorsements ahead of the Aug. 28 primary election. Now that the title cards are set, their list of preferred candidates received a few adjustments.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis has been subbed in for the Florida Realtors’ primary season pick, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, at the top of the ticket. The GOP nominee to replace Putnam, state Rep. Matt Caldwell, has tagged in Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley.

Sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis, the only incumbent Cabinet member, remains the Realtor-backed pick for the general election, as does Republican Attorney General nominee Ashley Moody, who defeated Pensacola state Rep. Frank White by double digits three weeks ago.

“As Realtors, we pride ourselves on our long-standing efforts to defend private property rights, promote community prosperity and preserve a professional climate that ensures the economic growth of Florida,” said Florida Realtors PAC chair Ann DeFries.

“Our continued success in these efforts involves elected officials who share these beliefs and will work with our 180,000-plus members to help Floridians and their communities thrive.”

Other than the CFO race, where Democratic challenger Jeremy Ring has trailed in both the polls and in fundraising, Florida’s statewide contests are shaping up to be competitive.

DeSantis currently trails Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by a hair in most polls, while Nikki Fried and Sean Shaw, the Democratic nominees for Ag Commish and Attorney General, scored comfortable wins in the primary and have shown solid fundraising thus far.

Further down the ballot, the Republican nominees in the most competitive state Senate districts — Sen. Keith Perry in SD 8, former state Rep. Ed Hooper in SD 16, Sen. Dana Young in SD 18, Sen. Kelli Stargel in SD 22 and state Rep. Manny Diaz in SD 36 — all retained their endorsements from July.

Perry, Hooper, Young and Stargel each held a lead in over their Democratic challengers in public polls conducted this week by St. Pete Polls.

A full list of endorsed candidates is available on the Florida Realtors PAC website. The general election is Nov. 6.

FAU poll: Andrew Gillum has slim lead over Ron DeSantis

A new survey from the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative (FAU BEPI) has Andrew Gillum with an inside-the-margin lead in the race to be Florida’s next Governor.

The poll shows Gillum with 41 percent of the vote, with DeSantis at 39 percent. The remaining 15 percent of voters were undecided, leaving some room for growth for each candidate.

“Florida continues to be a sharply divided state,” said Kevin Wagner, professor of political science at FAU and a research fellow of the Initiative. “When races are this close, it is often enthusiasm and turnout that make the difference.”

DeSantis may face an added hurdle if this race comes down to turnout. Recent reports say President Donald Trump is unhappy with DeSantis’ rebuke of the President’s remarks regarding the death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. DeSantis, however, questioned that narrative on Wednesday.

“I don’t think anything has changed. I think we’re good,” he said.

DeSantis’ primary win over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was largely seen as a result of Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis.

And Trump’s grip on the Republican Party base means he could have sway over Republican turnout come November. Whether Trump’s anger will linger and lead to a tamping down of support for DeSantis remains to be seen. If there is a gap between DeSantis and “the big man himself,” there’s plenty of time to bridge the divide, and if past is prologue, a Democratic lead in September often results in a Republican win in November.

Still, the lead for Gillum in the FAU BEPI poll matches other surveys which have shown the Democrat ahead. That includes another poll released Wednesday morning from Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics. The latter poll, conducted online, showed Gillum with a 50-44 percent lead, which was outside the poll’s 4 point margin of error.

FAU BEPI’s survey was conducted Sept. 13-16 and sampled 850 likely voters. That margin of error was listed as 3.3 percentage points.

FEA committee spends $100K to back Andrew Gillum

With Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis offering vastly different plans to address the state’s public schools, a Florida Education Association political committee spent $100,000 during the past week to boost Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign.

The Florida Education Association Advocacy Fund on Friday sent $100,000 to a Gillum political committee known as Forward Florida, according to a report on the state Division of Elections website.

Among other contributions, the FEA committee also sent $25,000 to Sean Shaw for Florida, a committee tied to Democratic Attorney-General candidate Sean Shaw.

Gillum and DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, launched competing education plans Wednesday.

Gillum, in part, wants to provide a minimum starting salary of $50,000 for teachers and would boost the state’s corporate income tax to fund it. DeSantis, meanwhile, released a plan that includes requiring 80 percent of school funding to be spent in classrooms and not on administration. He said the plan could help boost teacher pay. But the FEA, the state’s major teachers union, was highly critical of DeSantis’ plan.

Ron DeSantis says nothing has changed with Donald Trump

With reports that his political benefactor President Donald Trump considers him disloyal because of their differences on Puerto Rico death tolls, Ron DeSantis insisted Wednesday that nothing has changed between the two.

“I don’t think anything has changed. I think we’re good,” the Republican nominee for Governor said when asked for comment on reports Trump was upset with him.

DeSantis, in Ocoee Wednesday to discuss his education platform at a private Christian school, said he still expects Trump to campaign for him in Florida, though a POLITICO story Tuesday reported that insiders say the president was furious with the congressman, calling him disloyal for backing Trump’s claims that his political enemies are exaggerating Hurricane Maria death tolls.

Last week, DeSantis tweeted he saw no reason to dismiss estimates that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the massive hurricane one year ago Thursday, as well as during the long recovery for much of the year in which parts of the island were without power, clean running water and health care services.

When asked if he thought Trump would still campaign for him, DeSantis replied with one word:


He did not elaborate. And he was not asked and did not clarify from what point nothing had changed.

Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis, and his campaign event with him in Tampa in July propelled the Ponte Vedra Beach congressman far ahead of his Republican primary rival, Adam Putnam, and the agriculture commissioner never recovered. Throughout the primary campaign, DeSantis made a strong case that he and Trump stood together, touting that relationship as a central part of his campaign advertising.

In recent weeks, however, DeSantis toned down (if not turned off) discussion of his connection with Trump. For example, he selected Jeanette Nunez, once a fervent #NeverTrump Republican, as his running mate. And at the Republican Party’s big fall campaign kickoff rally two weeks ago in Orlando, DeSantis never mentioned Trump in his speech.

On Wednesday DeSantis also declined to say whether he recently spoke with Trump.

“That’s private,” he said.

Personnel note: Beau Beaubien joins Ron DeSantis campaign

Beau Beaubien has left the Attorney General’s Office to become political director for Republican former Congressman Ron DeSantis‘ campaign for Governor.

From DeSantis adviser Brad Herold: “From grassroots advocacy to election law to legislative affairs, Beau is an effective and proven operative.

“Beau’s extensive relationships in Tallahassee and throughout our state will prove immensely valuable, and we are excited to have him onboard.”

Beaubien had been Special Counsel for Attorney General Pam Bondi since January. Before that, he was an associate at the Coates Law Firm in Tallahassee, focusing on ethics and elections law.

He’s been a Legislative intern at the Florida House of Representatives and a Florida Gubernatorial Fellow at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Beaubien got his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 2005, and a law degree from Florida State University in 2012.

Something very weird is happening in Florida politics …

If you pay close attention to the national political reporters, a blue wave the size of the one that capsized the Poseidon is about to usher in Democratic control of the U.S. House and possibly the Senate.

The significant forecasters, including Nate Silver‘s FiveThirtyEight, the Cook Political Report, and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball basically give the Democrats a 3-in-4 chance of retaking the House in November.

Of course, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast gave Hillary Clinton a 7-in-10 chance of winning the presidential election in 2016, but where the election cycle stands now, it just feels like a wave election, at least nationally.

In Florida, however, something very weird is happening.

With less than fifty days before the general election, Florida voters, in typical Florida voter fashion, are poised to send a very mixed message to Tallahassee and Washington.

Inexplicably, there is both a blue wave developing at the top of the ballot, but there is also a very definitive red wall forming down ballot.


Andrew Gillum is inarguably leading the race for Florida Governor. He’s led in every public poll since winning the primary election on August 28. The latest number, via a Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics poll released Wednesday, gives the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee a six-point lead over Republican Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis isn’t floundering, but he is, as some in his own campaign said, “sucking wind.”

Despite knowing since late June that he would be the GOP nominee, he has struggled to put forth a compelling policy platform (although he rolled out some education proposals on Tuesday) and can’t seem to go a day without running into a racially charged backstory.

Tuesday may have been the worst day yet for his campaign as POLITICO reported that DeSantis had angered the one election god he’s prayed to since entering the race: Donald Trump. The President has been privately criticizing DeSantis and accusing him of disloyalty after the former congressman publicly broke with him over the official death toll in Puerto Rico.

Like LBJ and Walter Cronkite, if DeSantis loses Trump, well …

There’s more than enough time for DeSantis to right the ship, especially since there are so many lines of criticism by which to attack Gillum. But three weeks after the primary, DeSantis still seems to be getting his sea legs.

It’s really not unfair to say that he appears to be the least-ready-for-primetime gubernatorial candidate since Bill McBride‘s run in 1998.

Yet while Gillum has an early lead over DeSantis, it would appear Gillum’s fellow Democrat, Bill Nelson, is about to be bounced from office.

Silver’s FiveThirtyEight is out with a new ranking of incumbent Democratic Senators’ re-election odds, and Nelson is the “most vulnerable” of the two dozen Dems seeking another term in November

“It might seem surprising that the fundamentals calculation regards Florida’s Bill Nelson as the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent since Florida is quite purple and there are Democrats up for re-election in some genuinely red states” … “Nelson has a very good challenger in Florida Gov. Rick Scott; one way our model accounts for candidate quality is by looking at the highest elected office the opponent has held, with races against current or former governors or senators falling into the top category.”

FiveThirtyEight also notes the fundraising advantage Scott has given himself by whipping out his checkbook and states that despite the “fundamentals” of the race — non-polling indicators such as fundraising totals, past margins of victory and incumbency — showing Nelson up 7 points over Scott, only focusing on the polls tells a different story.

FiveThirtyEight’s current polls-only estimate predicts Nelson will lose by a tenth of a point on Election Day.

Gillum wins. Zig.

Scott wins. Zag.

The back-and-forth between Democrats and Republican continues through the rest of the statewide races. Republican Ashley Moody leads Democrat Sean Shaw in the Attorney General race. But Democrat Nikki Fried looks ready to “upset” Republican Matt Caldwell in the Agriculture Commissioner contest. Meanwhile, Republican Jimmy Patronis is favored to defeat Democrat Jeremy Ring.

Zig. Zag. Zig.

Perhaps more interesting — or is it confounding? — is what is taking place down the ballot.

Despite all of the talk of a blue wave crashing into congressional politics, Florida’s delegation looks like it will, on a partisan level, remain the same (even if there are some new faces).

In battleground CD 26, which Axios just labeled as one of 8 races that will determine if this really is a wave election, Republican Carlos Curbelo holds a three-point lead over Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell according to a new poll by The New York Times. New polling in CD 27, which Clinton carried by nearly 20 points two years ago, shows that Republican Maria Elvira Salazar has caught Donna Shalala, the Democratic nominee, “sleeping.” According to Marc Caputo of POLITICO, Salazar leads the former Clinton Foundation head by 7 points in a poll conducted for the Republican’s campaign that was completed Thursday.

In a poll from Shalala’s campaign, completed Sept. 1, the Democrat leads Salazar by four percentage points.

If Republicans hold on to CD 26 and, miraculously, CD 27, there will be no way to define this year as a wave election. Period.

But just as CD 26 and CD 27 zig and zag, other congressional seats which shouldn’t be in play are precisely that. There’s polling in CD 7 (held by Democrat Stephanie Murphy) showing that race close. There’s also interesting numbers coming out of red meat CD 15. And national Democrats will bet the money in their PredictIt accounts that Republican incumbents Gus Bilirakis and Vern Buchanan are vulnerable.

So maybe a wave IS gonna strike, just not in the places the experts expect.

If the congressional races are scattershot, the five or six races that will determine control of the Florida Senate should provide some comfort for Florida Republicans. According to new surveys from St. Pete Polls, the baselines in SD 8, 16, 18, and 22, all indicate that the Republican red wall may bend, but is not ready to break.

Take a look at the numbers in SD 8, where incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry has a big lead over Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking in the race for the Gainesville-based seat. If you look at the sample behind that poll, you’ll see that it skews to Democrats and independents. Yet Perry is eleven points ahead.

It’s difficult to make heads and tails out of numbers like those.

So put all of the numbers into one perspective.

There you’ll see that Florida voters are poised to elect a Democratic governor to succeed a Republican one; that GOP governor is likely to upset the Democratic U.S. Senator. Republican congressional candidates are holding tight in places they should be losing, but Democrats are competitive in places they sometimes don’t even field a candidate. Meanwhile, the Republican state legislators who so often draw the ire of the editorial boards are in strong positions against the best crop of Democratic state Senate candidates seen in some time.

Sure the polls are very likely to change between now and Nov. 6. But as it stands right now … blue wave … red wall … whatever … something weird is happening in Florida politics.

Andrew Gillum leading Ron DeSantis for Governor, latest poll says

A new survey from Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics shows Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum with a six-point lead over his Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis.

The poll captured numbers in several competitive races nationwide. The results showed Gillum earning 50 percent of the vote, with DeSantis sitting at 44 percent.

What should worry the GOP: That lead is outside the survey’s four-point “credibility interval,” indicating Gillum’s lead is legitimate.

The overall survey was conducted online Sept. 5-17 and surveyed 1,000 likely voters.

The group also showed Gov. Rick Scott with a one-point lead over incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Reuters’ poll showing Gillum ahead is in line with other measures of the race giving Gillum the lead.

The newest results also come as President Donald Trump is apparently upset with DeSantis. Trump’s anger reportedly stems from the former congressman’s rebuke of President Trump’s remarks regarding the death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

DeSantis’ primary win over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was largely seen as a result of Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis.

According to POLITICO, Trump feels DeSantis owes him loyalty and he saw DeSantis’ public criticism as a betrayal.

Whether those feelings will linger and lead to a tamping down of support from the President remains to be seen.

Given recent poll numbers and Trump’s grip on the Republican Party base, DeSantis likely needs that Trump bump come Nov. 6.

Ron DeSantis education proposals spotlight workforce training, school choice

Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis rolled out a raft of education proposals on Tuesday, fleshing out his platform as the general election season continues.

His timing was no accident. His Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum held a press conference at noon talking about his own proposals.

DeSantis’ plan has considerable overlap in at least one area with that of his dispatched primary opponent, Adam Putnam, who enthused about the need for vocational and trade education.

Vowing to “work with leaders from K-12 schools, postsecondary education, and the business community to better support career and technical education and apprenticeships, and to make sure Florida’s education is meeting the needs of our students and economy,” DeSantis’ words hearken back to the appeals of Putnam on the stump during the summer.

DeSantis also proposes that 80 percent of education spending go into the classroom, with an operational and financial audit of the Department of Education to highlight opportunities for improvement.

School choice is also a priority for much of the Republican’s financial base, and the nominee allays any potential qualms from the donor class. DeSantis “will support school choice options such as public magnet schools, district and non-district managed public charter schools, Florida Virtual School, home education, and the various other choice options.”

He also vows to incentivize teacher retention in high-need areas, such as special needs students, and to tweak performance incentives to have merit pay based on classroom performance.

DeSantis also promises a “complete review” of curriculum standards, including a renewed emphasis on civics education and the United States Constitution in those classes.

Regarding Florida’s higher education system, DeSantis vows to increase performance funding — a model that has been criticized for perceived inefficiencies by universities that have gotten short shrift in the formula.

DeSantis’ proposals got a cool reception from Florida Education Association (FEA) President Joanne McCall.

In a statement, McCall noted that the plan wouldn’t increase education funding, including raising funding levels to assist in recruiting and retaining teachers.

“The bottom line is DeSantis’ education plan will continue to drain more dollars from the system that educates the great majority of our state’s students, and will send that money to unaccountable private schools. It’s a raw deal for Florida’s students, teachers and education staff professionals, and our public schools,” McCall warned.

In Yom Kippur statement, Andrew Gillum vows to protect Israeli ‘safety and security’

Facing criticisms from Republicans of not being sufficiently pro-Israel, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum sought to clarify his position and allay concerns Tuesday.

Gillum’s platform: A statement from his campaign for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, in which Gillum asserted “ensuring lasting safety and security for Israel is an unquestionable priority and that building peace is one of the great causes of our time.”

The candidate notes that the restorative concept of “tikkun olam” is “important and necessary in Israel, where the deadly cycle of violence incited by Hamas continued for yet another year.”

The Democratic nominee describes his own visit to Israel, where he “met Israeli and Palestinian children, who looked at me with the same hope in their eyes,” before again clarifying his position that Israel is besieged.

“I saw first hand how the threat of Katyusha rockets affected the everyday lives of Israelis — no one could deny that ensuring lasting safety and security for Israel is an unquestionable priority and that building peace is one of the great causes of our time,” Gillum asserted.

“Let us work together to fight the scourge of anti-Semitism. Let us look forward to the day when Israeli and Palestinian boys and girls will grow up with peace, security, and prosperity. Let us work together in the cause of peace, to stand with Israel and with all people yearning to be free from violence,” Gillum added.

As the Tampa Bay Times reported this week, Gillum has had to clarify his position on Israel.

While he supports the “two-state solution,” Gillum does not support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement, despite having gotten money from the BDS-linked Dream Defenders.

He also has gone on record saying he did not support the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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