TALLAHASSEE – Governor Ron DeSantis stopped by a seafront seafood restaurant in St. Petersburg on Monday to sign high-profile pandemic legislation, but the event came with a much political subtext largest: 2022.
DeSantis hosted the bill signing ceremony in the district of Democratic Representative Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor of Florida, likely announcing an offer for his former post on Tuesday in the same city. Yet, on Monday, DeSantis stood by GOP legislative leaders, where he signed a bill easing many of the remaining Covid restrictions in Florida, praised his administration’s response to the pandemic, and trashed them. Democratic-led states like California and New York, which DeSantis has continually hammered publicly. .
“I don’t think anyone at the time would have thought that a pandemic would allow governors to seize power to exclude children from schools, for a year, to lock down businesses,” said DeSantis, who has locked down state, but lifted most warrants in September. “We have worked very hard, especially since the summer, to abandon these types of policies.”
For DeSantis and his Democratic challengers, the pandemic will be the main problem as the gubernatorial race approaches. DeSantis’ handling of the pandemic has been among the most controversial in the country. He never instituted a state mask mandate and used his executive authority to prevent local governments from fining residents who violated local government emergency Covid orders.
After September, DeSantis quickly reopened most of the state, a move that bolstered DeSantis’ position with national Republicans who saw the Florida pandemic response as a model for conservatives. It has also intensified hatred from Democrats, who hold DeSantis responsible for unnecessary deaths and additional cases.
These are the outlines likely to frame the early messaging fight in the 2022 gubernatorial race, which will also feature Orlando Rep. Val Demings and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democrat elected in the world. statewide.
The legislation DeSantis announced on Monday (SB 2006) gives the governor of Florida broader authority to invalidate orders issued by local governments such as mask warrants. It also bans so-called “vaccine passports,” which the Tories have used to attack the Biden administration, and fuels unfounded fears that the big government is trying to follow its citizens. The governor also used the event to signal that he may begin to more aggressively encourage residents of the state to get vaccinated, a step with Florida in the middle of the pack nationally.
Crist was quick to respond on Twitter with his Happy Warrior politics brand, posting on Monday that DeSantis was “always welcomeOn his own ground, but his congressional office issued a statement after the event in a decidedly more critical tone, hammering DeSantis for overturning decisions made by local governments.
“Governor DeSantis has failed to lead during the pandemic, leaving local officials as the last line of defense against the pandemic, forcing them to make tough decisions to save lives. It is a continuation of this immoral lack of leadership, and another reason why he does not deserve to be re-elected.
Fried too tweeted a response to DeSantis on Monday, saying the “evidence-based thing to do” is follow the science. We should empower local leaders and businesses to protect their communities and get their economies back on track. “
DeSantis’ efforts to curb executive orders from local governments put it in a difficult messaging position. Last week, DeSantis extended its own emergency executive power linked to the coronavirus even as it continues to say Florida is no longer in a state of emergency. The governor has also reopened the state faster than many others, but has locked down much of the state’s economy in the early stages of the pandemic, which may complicate the message he hopes to focus on. on his response without intervention.
Florida House President Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican who witnessed the signing of the bill, presented a glimpse of a likely Republican defense to criticize that DeSantis’ early actions contradict how he now frames the coronavirus situation in Florida.
“Gov. Ron DeSantis’ sole mission was to do what is safe for a short time to get our businesses back on track and for our schools to reopen, ”he said.
Sprowls also tried to defuse criticism that the newly signed pandemic legislation giving Florida governors more authority to strike down local emergency orders is simply a takeover, saying future governors will benefit as well.
“Governor DeSantis comes in and doesn’t say ‘give me more power’ during the pandemic, but ‘what if I wasn’t the governor?” Sprowls said.
DeSantis noted that the newly signed bill verifies its power by allowing the legislature to pass a resolution that would invalidate an executive order signed by the government. Unlike legislation, the resolution does not require the governor’s signature.
But the GOP-dominated legislature has refused to take concrete steps to curb DeSantis throughout the pandemic. DeSantis used the event to make his strongest statement, while encouraging Floridians to get the Covid-19 vaccine, and said his administration would start launching pro-vaccine PSAs. DeSantis was vaccinated, but did not do so publicly, which led to a series of criticisms that the decision to do so behind closed doors was a nod to anti-vaxxers within the GOP base. .
About 37% of adults in Florida have been vaccinated. Among Florida seniors, DeSantis’ original target, just under 70% have been vaccinated.
“My message is that the vaccine protects you, get the vaccine, then live your life as if you were protected,” DeSantis said.