I guess it should come as no surprise that Florida's new governor, Ron DeSantis, is off to the races in his new role. After all, he was part of the Freedom Caucus when he was in Congress. However, observing his lackluster campaign after being endorsed by President Trump and winning the GOP primary over his opponent, Adam Putnam, many conservatives, including myself, became increasingly concerned that Trump picked the wrong guy. Thus far, Gov. DeSantis is proving the skeptics wrong by showing the nation how conservatives should govern when we win elected office.
You all may remember the controversy that erupted in DeSantis' first interview after winning the GOP nomination. If not, let me remind you. Andrew Gillum, an African-American that happens to be the mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, won the Democratic primary. This shocked every analyst I know for two reasons:
One, he was embroiled in scandal and FBI investigations after he and a donor allegedly accepted illegal bribes, including tickets to the musical "Hamilton" and an overseas vacation, from an undercover FBI agent. Secondly, no one expected him to win the nomination given just two weeks prior he ranked No. 4 in the polls. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Florida Gov. Bob Graham, was going to be the sure-fire winner despite all the arrows being thrown at her by her opponents.
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Once DeSantis and Gillum had secured their parties' nominations, Gillum became a social butterfly. He accepted every radio and television interview possible to gain name recognition and promote his far-left agenda, which included socialized medicine for all. DeSantis, on the other hand, stumbled out of the gate on a "Fox and Friends" interview when he told Florida voters they should vote for him so that we don't "monkey" things up. In context, it was obvious that DeSantis was speaking of Florida's economy. He feared Gillum's socialized message would cause current businesses and jobs to leave the state and discourage new job creators from moving here. Gillum's campaign capitalized on the unforced error by branding DeSantis and those that endorsed him racists. Afterward, it's as if DeSantis' campaign was playing "Where's Waldo?" Except for occasional write-ups of local appearances, the guy was nowhere to be found.
Nonetheless, he won the governorship. Fast forward to today, with less than two weeks in office and on multiple fronts, Gov. DeSantis is showing Republicans how to lead.
Ron DeSantis' first act as governor was suspending Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel after his office's handling of the "Valentine's Day Massacre" last year. Israel's officers hid behind their vehicles and took cover elsewhere as mass shooter Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 students and staff members and injured another 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Cruz was no stranger to the sheriff's office as they had received many calls in the past about the assailant's behavior. Many feel the shooting was preventable. DeSantis quickly named Gregory Tony, a former Coral Springs Police sergeant, who happens to be black, as Israel's replacement.
Secondly, DeSantis signed an order to clean up Florida's waterways that would address the problems associated with blue-green algae in its rivers. Many believe that the pollutants, including fertilizers from sugar farms, that run downstream from Lake Okeechobee, have contributed to Florida's red tide problem off its coast. Red tide has severely hurt Florida's tourism and fishing industries.
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Then, in a move that didn't garner much media attention, the governor suspended another bureaucrat, Okaloosa County Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson. After a 6-year-old autistic student by the name of Noah Perillo was physically abused by his teacher, Jackson was accused by the victim's family of covering up the alleged abuse. The teacher was subsequently arrested and sentenced to several years in prison. In a statement last Friday, DeSantis said, "Students should feel safe in school, and this administration will not tolerate negligence nor incompetence from any government officials, especially those charged with the sacred duty of protecting our children."
Next, he pardoned "The Groveland Four." The Groveland Four were four young black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in Lake County, Florida, nearly 70 years ago. One of the four was shot to death by a posse after escaping jail. Another two confessed to the crime only after being beaten by police in jail, and the fourth young man was arrested in a separate incident 20 miles away at the time the alleged rape occurred but was charged with the crime anyway. Sadly, this story is one of many that illustrates the epitome of racism that was prevalent in the South at the time. Though Gov. DeSantis gave them the pardon they deserved, one can only wish that history had not been so cruel to these young men.
Lastly, DeSantis has moved the Florida Supreme Court decidedly to the right. He appointed our first Cuban Latina justice, Barbara Lagoa, who has sworn to uphold our national and state constitution without legislating from the bench. On Monday he also appointed a second constitutionalist to the bench, Robert J. Luck. He has one pick remaining. Due to mandatory age limits, DeSantis gets to pick three of our Supreme Court justices. With two picks down, our bench of seven justices now has five constitutionalists seated, and we expect to have six after his last pick.
If there were any doubts that congressmen are capable of governing, DeSantis is proving the skeptics wrong. He's showing all conservatives and Republicans how they should govern when the electorate trust them with their votes.