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Gov. Ron DeSantis tours Little Hickory Bay near Bonita Springs

Emails & Opinions

Joe Henderson: Ron DeSantis off to a moderate start, and that’s good

All that doesn’t make him a “moderate,” though.

Barely a week into his administration, Gov. Ron DeSantis might have Floridians wondering if they elected a moderate instead of a Donald Trump acolyte.

Since taking office Jan. 8, DeSantis supported a move to pardon the Groveland Four. It cleared the names of four young black men wrongly accused of kidnapping and raping a white woman 70 years ago.

He promised to seek $2.5 billion for Everglades cleanup and restoration. Barbara Lagoa became the first Cuban-American woman appointed to the state Supreme Court. Hurricane victims were promised they wouldn’t be forgotten.

He issued an executive order to ban fracking.

The Governor announced a bold series of environmental regulations including hiring a chief science officer. Republicans and science?

Fan me, please!

All that doesn’t make him a moderate, though.

I mean, I doubt he’ll release a “Medicare for all” plan any time soon.

And he did appoint Richard Corcoran as Education Commissioner. DeSantis supports many of the public-school reforms championed by conservatives, such as charters and vouchers.

That’s OK because that’s what the people elected.

The other things he did, especially with the Groveland Four and the environmental moves, telegraphs that he is smart and has a sense of fairness.

Republicans have been in charge of Tallahassee for two decades. They knew about this. A book about the travesty, Devil in the Grove, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Last year, the Legislature requested that the state Clemency Board issue the pardon.

It didn’t happen.

Rick Scott couldn’t get to that item on his to-do list before leaving for Washington and his new in the U.S. Senate. Maybe it was never on his list.

Speaking of Scott, his environmental policies during two terms in office were a mess. Regulations were shredded. Protections were dismantled. Red tide and toxic goo became familiar terms. Beaches filled with rotting fish became familiar scenes.

DeSantis has vowed to change that. So far, so good.

I called him a Trump “Mini-Me” during the campaign. The President’s endorsement certainly helped him secure the GOP nomination.

Since then he put a little distance between himself and what he called “the big guy himself.”

He increased that distance his first week in office.

What I think he really did, though, was remind everyone that not every issue can be defined by red or blue. All Floridians want clean water and air. Justice can’t be defined by color.

These are things we all can agree on. It brings us together.

I think we lost of that in the last eight years. Tallahassee is always a partisan town, but it tilted extreme during Scott’s reign. That’s no way to govern.

That’s why the tone DeSantis has struck is encouraging. These moves show someone aware he is Governor for the whole state, not just those who voted for him.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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