While Gov. Ron DeSantis did not appear on the ballot during the Primary, the Republican Governor succeeded in a self-imposed test of his influence over the Florida electorate.
With the votes tallied in most of Florida’s local races, at least 20 of the 30 candidates DeSantis endorsed for School Board proved successful Tuesday, and another five appear to be headed to runoffs on Nov. 8. Of his 11 candidates facing incumbent members, eight came out on top.
DeSantis made waves when he began endorsing School Board candidates in June. While it’s common for unions and local groups to endorse candidates for School Board — a nonpartisan race — no Florida Governor had personally endorsed such a broad array of School Board candidates.
Ultimately, DeSantis endorsed 30 candidates from 18 counties, prompting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist to endorse his own slate of favorites. The endorsements marked the further politicization of local jurisdictions that have increasingly become the battleground for the nation’s culture wars.
In the last week of the Primary Election, DeSantis embarked on an “Education Agenda Tour,” in part to rally support for his School Board choices. The Governor said he selected the “pro-parent, pro-student” candidates for their support of parental rights, curriculum transparency and classrooms free of “woke ideology.” To receive DeSantis’ endorsement, the candidates first pledged to follow DeSantis’ education agenda.
Speaking to reporters following Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, DeSantis was aware of the significance of his endorsements.
“This is new, particularly for Republicans, because (it) had basically been unions would back candidates and that would be it,” the Governor said. “Now I think more parents are interested, some of our voters are interested. We have no consequential races really statewide that are competitive, and so you have a situation where this may be one reason why people are motivated.”
Two of DeSantis’ incumbents lost. However, one was an appointee who lost to the former School Board member whom DeSantis removed over a residency issue. Two of DeSantis’ incumbent picks also appear to be headed to runoffs.
In one example of the Governor’s influence, DeSantis achieved a clean sweep in Duval County, defeating an incumbent there.
“Tonight, parents from across Duval County made their voices heard and re-elected District 6 School Board Member, Charlotte Joyce as well as elected April Carney to School Board District 2!” Duval County GOP Chair Dean Black said in a statement.
“These victories officially flip the School Board to majority registered Republicans 4-3. More importantly it rejects the woke indoctrination, sexualization and Marxist policies that have been allowed to occur and puts the power back into the hands of parents!”
In a statement Tuesday evening, Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Díaz said public education in Florida is in trouble under DeSantis and Republican leadership.
“We need school board members who believe that public education is the bedrock of the American dream and that public education must afford every child the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, be responsible citizens, and participate in a competitive global economy,” Díaz said. “Florida should be proud to see these committed public servants elected who will serve as champions for our public schools, parents, teachers, and students.”
— Former member Diyonne McGraw retook her seat from incumbent Mildred Russell, DeSantis’ pick, in District 2, 60%-40%.
— DeSantis’ Megan Wright unseated incumbent Misty Belford in District 1, 61%-39%.
— DeSantis’ Erin Skipper unseated incumbent Janice Kerekes and defeated Charles Kirk in District 1, 55%-33%-12%.
— DeSantis’ April Carney unseated incumbent Elizabeth Anderson in District 2, 53%-47%.
— Incumbent Charlotte Joyce, DeSantis’ pick, defeated Tanya Hardaker in District 6, 59%-41%.
— Sally Hunt unseated incumbent Jill Woolbright, DeSantis’ pick, in District 1, 51%-49%.
— DeSantis’ Christy Chong unseated School Board Chair Trevor Tucker in District 4, 55%-45%.
— Incumbent Stephanie Busin, DeSantis’ pick, heads to a runoff against Joe Whitehead in District 4. Richard West also ran and split the vote, 49%-46%-5%.
— Incumbent Stacy Hahn, DeSantis’ pick, defeated Damaris Allen in District 2, 64%-36%.
— DeSantis’ Patti Rendon defeated Hunter Gambrell and Danielle Smalley in District 4, 53%-28%-18%.
— Incumbent Karen Perez, Crist’s pick, held off DeSantis’ Aly Marie Legge and Roshaun Gendrett in District 6, 51%-38%-12%.
Indian River County
— Incumbent Jackie Rosario, DeSantis’ pick, heads to a runoff against Crist’s Cindy Gibbs in District 2. LaDonna Corbin and Josh Post also ran and split the ticket, 47%-26%-17%-9%.
— DeSantis’ Sam Fisher heads to a runoff against Kathy Fanny District 1. Christine DeVigili and Cathy Stout also ran and split the vote, 44%-25%-15%-15%.
— Board Chair Debbie Jordan, Crist’s pick, heads to a runoff against Dan Severson in District 4. “Big Mama” Jones and Gerri Ware also ran and split the vote, 33% for Severson and 31% for Jordan, with Jones taking 23% and Ware taking 13%.
— DeSantis’ Armor Persons unseated incumbent Gwynetta Gittens in District 5, 55%-45%.
— DeSantis’ Cindy Spray heads to a runoff against Harold E. Byrd Jr. in District 2. Susan Agruso also ran and split the vote, 39%-36%-26%.
— Incumbent Chad Choate, DeSantis’ pick, defeated Sean Conley in District 4, 55%-45%.
— DeSantis’ Richard Tatem unseated incumbent James Golden and Chantal Wilford in District 5, 51%-33%-16%.
— Incumbent Eric Cummings, Crist’s pick, defeated Steve Swett in District 3, 60%-40%.
— DeSantis’ Jennifer Russell defeated Liz Bernstein in District 3, 56%-44%.
— DeSantis’ Robert Alonso defeated Maribel Balbin and Kevin Menendez Macki in District 4, 57%-25%-18%.
— DeSantis’ Monica Colucci unseated incumbent Marta Perez in District 8, 53%-47%.
— DeSantis’ Daren Horan defeated Gabrielle Brown in District 1, 58%-42%.
— Incumbent Sue Woltanski held off DeSantis’ Alexandria Suarez in District 5, 54%-46%.
— DeSantis’ Al Hernandez defeated James Washington and Stephen Meisman in District 1, 45%-32%-24%.
— DeSantis’ Rick Nolte unseated incumbent Sarah Fortney in District 3, 51%-49%.
— Justin Sharpless defeated Crist’s Sara Jones in District 6, 51%-49%.
— DeSantis’ Phil Leary defeated Kevin Whitlow in District 5, 60%-40%.
— Incumbent Bridget Ziegler, DeSantis’ pick, defeated Dawnyelle Singleton in District 1, 56%-44%.
— DeSantis’ Robyn Marinelli defeated Lauren Kurnov in District 4, 52%-48%.
— DeSantis’ Timothy Enos defeated Nora Cietek in District 5, 52%-48%.
— Incumbent Jamie Haynes, DeSantis’ pick, heads to a runoff against Albert Bouie in District 1. Ginny-Beth Joiner, Jaclyn Carrell and Georgann Carnicella also ran and split the vote, 43%-25%-15%-10%-6%.
— Board Chair Ruben Colón held off DeSantis’ Fred Lowry in District 5, 51%-49%.