Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis slipped into reelection on Tuesday, further fueling expectations that he will soon turn his attention to a possible 2024 presidential election.
DeSantis defeated what Democrats considered a safe but boring bet: Charlie Crist, a Florida household name, where the politician has for decades bounced back and forth between parties and high-profile offices — from Republican attorney general and governor to Democratic congressman.
Crist was outspent, outrecruited and outdone. Although Crist came out on top in the race’s only televised debate last month, DeSantis raised more than $200 million — more than any gubernatorial candidate in US history, according to several journalists. Unspent funds position him to immediately target the White House.
Florida, traditionally a fierce political battlefield, has turned increasingly red in recent years. With a particularly strong MAGA move across the peninsula, in 2018 DeSantis used his declarations of allegiance to then-President Donald Trump to make his way to the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee. Since then, even the typically progressive southern tip of the state has fallen under the spell. Members of the far-right street gang Proud Boys — which openly adhere to fascist ideals — have gained a foothold on the Miami-Dade County Republican Executive Committee, The New York Times.
Floridians can now expect a continuation of DeSantis’ aggressively conservative crusade, which turns schools into a culture war battleground that defends the traditional portrayal of an American family: white, Christian and heterosexual.
Last year, he responded to TBEN News fears about transsexual students by banning them from girls’ sports. This year, he passed a “Don’t Say Gay” law that forbids teachers from even mentioning the existence of gay parents when children go to kindergarten through third grade. He then turned to “wakeful math,” rejecting textbooks mentioning races under the bizarre assumption that they are part of a covert campaign to indoctrinate children about white supremacy.
Recently, his government put outraged conspiracy theorists on a book ban council that could severely limit what classmates could read in public schools.
DeSantis has made it a priority to attack progressive targets, and his mission is likely to continue unabated for years to come. He has a limited term as governor, and anything he does now could be interpreted as acting to attract the attention of voters outside of Florida.