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Ron DeSantis’ launch was heavy on Fox News red meat. Will GOP primary voters bite?

Emails & Opinions

Ron DeSantis’ less-than-spectacular first week on the trail

Does Ron DeSantis have a problem with honesty?

One could argue that (at a minimum) the North Florida congressman and newly minted gubernatorial candidate is struggling with the truth on the campaign trail.

Among those who might agree is Fred Costello, the former Ormond Beach mayor and Republican state Representative. Costello — who is again seeking Florida’s 6th Congressional District — faced DeSantis in 2016, giving up his Florida House seat to do so.

As Costello puts it, DeSantis — at the time, a candidate for Marco Rubio’s U.S. Senate seat — assured him he wasn’t getting back in the CD 6 race. Relying on that guidance, Costello abandoned his spot in the Legislature.

But once DeSantis reversed course (after Rubio dropped his presidential campaign to stay in the Senate race) Costello felt honor-bound to “keep his word” and follow through.

Costello continued his run for Congress, but this time against an incumbent, a difficult feat for any political campaign. Ultimately, he lost the primary, finishing a distant second to DeSantis with only 24 percent of the vote.

Since DeSantis reneged on his promise not return to the congressional race, Costello vacated a safe House seat.

In another dubious move, a Republican claiming to have a link to the DeSantis for Governor campaign sent a bombshell email last week to drum up support among the donors for a Northeast Florida fundraiser: “We anticipate Gov. [Rick] Scott‘s endorsement of Ron soon after Gov. Scott’s [sic] announces his own bid for the Senate race.”

Scott has continued to insist he is not running for the Senate (yet), and as such, doesn’t plan to endorse in the Republican primary to replace him.

Nevertheless, the DeSantis campaign officially disavowed Ricky King, the email’s author. And even King, when asked by POLITICO Florida if he was indeed associated with DeSantis’ campaign, said “No.”

Also, King suggested someone manipulated the “textual body” of the original email, without explaining how that might have happened. And he added that POLITICO had no permission to print the email’s contents in the first place.

It gets weirder. As POLITICO notes: “The only Ricky King from Northeast Florida who works in GOP politics briefly ran for Duval County’s school board in 2016 — but quit after a woman filed a police report saying that the one-time high school teacher sent a 16-year-old student at least two inappropriate text messages seeking bikini pictures of her. In one of the texted requests, King reportedly explained ‘Cuz I miss dat ass.’”

Even DeSantis’ campaign kickoff last week raised questions.

While the audience heard useless trivia — like that his batting average at Yale University was 90 points better than former President George H.W. Bush — what DeSantis didn’t say spoke volumes.

Among the things DeSantis failed to mention: What he thought of giving public money to charter schools, Scott’s Enterprise Florida business subsidy program or any of the other hot-button issues facing Florida.

“I haven’t looked at it yet,” DeSantis said when reporters asked his thoughts on the upcoming November ballot question on restoring voting rights to more than 1 million ex-felons in Florida. “But I’ll look at it.”

Refusing to take a stand implies DeSantis is either purposely hiding his views from the public (bad) or is merely uninformed on the issues (even worse).

And good luck trying to find out through his campaign website — which doesn’t list even a single issue or policy.

While announcing his gubernatorial campaign on “FOX and Friends,” DeSantis praised Scott’s leadership — while at the same time decrying the Tallahassee “swamp.”

DeSantis said: “I’m in a position to exercise the leadership that can build on the great work that Gov. Rick Scott has done to advance economic opportunity, reform education and drain the swamp in Tallahassee, which needs to be drained just like Washington.”

Either Scott is a “great leader” or “presided over a swamp” for the past eight years — just choose one. It can’t be both.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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