No ‘Thank You’: DeSantis Tour Not Coming to Pensacola
Florida’s new governor is taking a victory lap around the state, holding a series of rallies that he's calling his "Thank You Tour."
Pensacola is not among the planned stops.
DeSantis won a narrow victory over Democrat Andrew Gillum, 50-49 percent after recounts. He takes office January 8.
“Other than serving our nation in uniform, the opportunity to serve as the 46th governor of the great state of Florida is the greatest professional honor of my life,” DeSantis told supporters on Election Night.
DeSantis' transition team announced the tour on December 6, kicking off two days later in New Port Richey, Port Orange, and at The Villages, where he compared his previous job as Congressman to his new one.
“This is night and day from D.C., where too often people won’t be doing that they should be doing,” DeSantis said. “So now here, if there’s things to be done on behalf of the state, if I can’t do it myself at least I can be the one to put it on the agenda and work with the Legislature to get it done.”
The closest stop to Pensacola for the Governor-elect is Saturday in Destin after DeSantis returns from meeting with President Trump at the White House. In an email, spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice gave no reason for the bypass, but said they’re making a “good faith effort to look to Pensacola in the future.”
DeSantis collected 58 percent of the vote in Escambia County, and 74 percent in Santa Rosa after the recount.
DeSantis won the narrow victory after making a comment as the newly-minted Republican gubernatorial nominee in August, that many Gillum supporters feel was aimed at their candidate – who’s African-American.
“The last thing we need to do is to ‘monkey this up’ by trying to embrace a socialist agenda, with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state,” DeSantis said. “That is not going to work; that is not going to be good for Florida.”
DeSantis has denied that the comment was racist; Gillum told CNN during the candidates’ debate that the remark was right out of the Donald Trump playbook.
“The Congressman let us know exactly where he was going to take this race the day after he won the [Republican] nomination,” said Gillum. “The ‘monkey up’ comment said it all, and he has only continued in the course of his campaign to draw all the attention he can to the color of my skin.”
Charles Zelden, a political scientist at Nova Southeastern University, says DeSantis likely was not affected by the fallout over the remark, because a large number of those offended by it were voting for Gillum anyway.
“It just gave a taint to the entire election; and brought in some of the negativity associated with the president and his political style,” said Zelden. “But then, DeSantis is basically selling himself as ‘Florida’s Donald Trump.’”
Zelden believes the Trumpian influence that DeSantis is expected to bring to the Governor’s Mansion likely will be more style than substance. Look instead, says Zelden, toward the legislative leaders at the Statehouse.
“They control what gets into – gets through – and what ultimately gets out of the committees and out of the legislature,” Zelden says. “And the governor comes in afterward, negotiating elements of it with the threat of a line-item veto if he doesn’t get what he wants.”
When he removes the “elect” tag from his title, Ron DeSantis will inherit a number of issues from the Rick Scott administration. Topping the list, says Zelden, is the environment.
“The Red Tide is still there, there’s still the blooming going on,” said Zelden. “There’s still questions about how do we deal with the Everglades, the political power of ‘Big Sugar.’ All of that is going to continue to be a headache for Governor DeSantis.”
The new Governor is expected to establish himself through setting a broad agenda. We should find out during his inaugural address next month. But Zelden adds that it’s up to the Legislature to decide just how much – or how little – they follow it.
“You have to recall we have a Republican legislature and in Florida, it’s already pretty ‘pro-Trump’ to begin with,” said Zelden.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov.-elect Jeanette Nuñez says a Scott holdover, Cynthia Kelly, will remain as director of the Office of Policy and Budget; and Melinda Miguel will return as the state's chief inspector general – having served in that post in the Scott and Charlie Crist administrations.