Jacksonville Republicans and those who support them will have an opportunity next month to hear from the Governor.
The Republican Party of Duval County announced Tuesday that Ron DeSantis will keynote this year’s Duval GOP Statesman’s Dinner, an event to be held July 18 at the Hyatt Regency Downtown.
DeSantis is at a very different place as a candidate for re-election than he was four years ago, as an insurgent challenging establishmentarian Adam Putnam in the GOP Primary. Most major Republicans in Duval backed the former Agriculture Commissioner in that race.
And DeSantis also is in a different place than he was in the General Election in 2018, when he did not carry Duval County and was shredded by the then-current county party Chair for running a bad campaign.
This time around, every piece of evidence points to DeSantis being the center of the local party.
From a straw poll this spring that saw the Governor ahead of former President Donald Trump in a potential 2024 presidential faceoff to a flotilla event in the St. Johns River earlier this month, Duval Republicans seem to have embraced this Governor.
His appearance, meanwhile, will come after he has demonstrated an especially pronounced interest in local races in Duval County.
DeSantis endorsed the candidate who ended up being the only Republican against four Democrats in the race for Jacksonville Sheriff this summer, a campaign moved up after political ally Mike Williams resigned due to a charter violation.
“That’s my man there,” DeSantis said of Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters at a press conference earlier this month.
As part of a larger push toward making school boards more conservative, the Governor has also endorsed two candidates in what are still nonpartisan races for the Duval County School Board. One is incumbent Charlotte Joyce, who failed to get a resolution of support for DeSantis’ Parental Rights in Education bill through this year. The other, April Carney, is challenging Elizabeth Andersen for a seat that clearly is a target for conservative activists.
DeSantis has not endorsed in the 2023 race for Jacksonville Mayor, though he may have tipped his hand by allowing Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis in the shot with him at a press conference at a Jacksonville gas station. Expect that at least on the right, his backing will be crucial for any candidate seeking to advance to the runoff election.