A political committee opposing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2022 reelection campaign is launching a new radio ad attacking Florida’s Governor for what the ad describes as a pay-for-play scheme with COVID-19 vaccinations.
The Remove Ron committee’s one-minute radio spot, entitled “Vaccine Auction,” spotlights pop-up vaccination sites in two wealthy Florida communities that have been criticized for prioritizing DeSantis donors over others eligible to receive the vaccine.
“Welcome to Florida’s vaccine auction, sponsored by Gov. Ron DeSantis,” the ad opens. “Now, here are the ground rules: Only political supporters and fancy, rich campaign donors to Gov. DeSantis are eligible to bid.”
The ad stems in part from a Miami Herald report showing elderly residents in Ocean Reef Club, a wealthy Key Largo community, had almost been fully vaccinated by mid-January as many other elderly Floridians struggled to get their hands on the shots.
The report highlights numerous residents who donated $5,000 or more to DeSantis’ political committee, with one donation from a community resident reportedly contributing $250,000.
The ad doesn’t use those exact numbers but highlights the overarching sentiment from critics.
“Lot No. 1 is a vaccine clinic that could serve thousands in the general public, but that’s not the way our Governor does business. Today, it’s available only to you,” an announcer says in a voice that sounds part game show host, part auctioneer.
“Do I hear $25,000, $50,000; sold for $125,000.”
In another commonly cited complaint against DeSantis, critics complain he also prioritized residents in two wealthy ZIP codes serving Lakewood Ranch in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. There, a pop-up site was organized by Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh and Lakewood Ranch developer Rex Jensen, who each made arrangements to receive priority vaccines for themselves as part of the effort. However, backlash prompted neither to follow through with getting a shot.
“Join us next week for a chance to get a vaccine only money can buy, courtesy of Ron DeSantis,” the ad concludes with the token “ka-ching” sound of a cash register.
Remove Ron launched under leadership of lawyer Daniel Uhlfelder, a longtime DeSantis critic who spent last summer touring Florida beaches dressed as the Grim Reaper to highlight DeSantis’ decision to keep beaches open.
“Governors must be held to account for the entirety of their record, and unfortunately, Ron DeSantis’ decision to give supporters and donors priority access to the vaccine over average Floridians was a shameful act,” Uhlfelder said in a statement announcing the ad. “This has been documented by numerous Florida press outlets and criticized by local officials as well as members of both parties.”
The ad will run in Tallahassee beginning Tuesday, with further markets to be determined later in the week.