Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis highlighted law and order and education during a President’s Day stop in Montgomery County.
Although DeSantis has not announced a 2024 GOP presidential primary bid, his day started with speeches in New York followed by his visit to the American Legion Post in Fort Washington, before heading on to Chicago.
Several hundred politically active Republicans and elected officials warmly applauded his remarks.
“We are the nation’s fastest-growing state,” DeSantis said of Florida. “That’s just people voting with their feet, and they’re not going to go to a place that’s not managed well, that’s not governed well, that’s not safe. We’re number one. I think every year since I’ve been governor in net in-migration.” Also, Florida is “number one in economic freedom, number one in new business formation…number one in GDP growth, number one in education freedom, number one in parental involvement in education.”
The state has lower taxes, no state income tax, and a record budget surplus.
While low taxes are a good reason to move to Florida, “our commitment to public safety and our support for the men and women in law enforcement” is also a major draw he said.
“People in southeast Pennsylvania have seen a lot of the disaster in places like Philadelphia, which we’ve seen in New York City, which used to be one of the safest big cities in the world. Then you look at Chicago, Seattle… In Florida, our crime rate is at a 50-year low. So how is it you have it going up in so many of these other areas?
“We’re not any better than anybody else. We just have good policies, and we have leaders that will stand behind the people that wear the uniform.”
DeSantis contrasted his approach to law enforcement with those advocating “defund the police” politics.
“You had major cities slashing police budgets, really for ideological reasons, not that it was proven it would help the public safety,” DeSantis said. And, he added, Florida gives a $5,000 incentive to officers who move there from other states, along with other benefits. Current officers received $1,000 bonuses.
When he saw the riots of 2020 DeSantis said, “Not on my watch,” and called up the national guard. He also got the state legislature to pass an anti-rioting bill to make sure violent protesters were prosecuted.
“If you riot, if you engage in mob violence in the state of Florida, it isn’t going to be like Portland, where they take your mugshot, slap you on the wrist, and put you back on the street to do it again. In Florida, you’re not getting a slap on the wrist. You’re getting the inside of a jail cell.” Also, there are additional penalties for assaulting a police officer. “I’m not going to have these officers just be sitting ducks.”
Unlike Florida, some big cities are “putting woke ideology ahead of public safety.” DeSantis’ arguments got a boost from the latest news out of Austin, Texas, where street racers took over multiple intersections across the city, using their vehicles to spin doughnuts in the streets and lighting fireworks. They left one police officer injured and damaged several squad cars. Austin slashed police spending by 30 percent in 2021 but has since reversed course.
“Just the contempt of some of these politicians attacking police was really a low point…It has absolutely painted a target on the back of people who wear the uniform. You see it in New York City. Unfortunately, we just saw it at Temple. And I think if somebody goes out and murders a police officer, they should get the death penalty.”
The audience applauded in response. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) announced last week he would not sign any death penalty warrants and is urging an end to the policy in the state.
In Florida, “we don’t have tolerance for prosecutors who get elected, largely with big contributions from leftists like George Soros…they say it’s their job to determine what laws should be enforced. Not you, the people who make laws through your elected legislators…these prosecutors are “a law unto themselves.”
He said he removed a prosecutor who refused to enforce the law.
DeSantis pivoted to education.
“If you send your kids to school in Florida, they’re going to get an education, not a political indoctrination,” said DeSantis. “Is it okay to tell a second grader they are born in the wrong body? In Florida, we think the answer to that question is no.”
“People that said this was going to hurt me in the election are very quiet after we won by 1.5 million votes,” he said. “We did tussle with Disney. They’d had for 60 years their own government that they operated and controlled in the state of Florida. Those days are over.”
“Then you also have things like critical race theory, where they try to racialize,” said DeSantis. “If you’re a young White kid they say, ‘You’re an oppressor.’ If you’re Black they say, ‘You’re oppressed.’ And this is just crazy that they want to do this.
“So we said no critical theory in K-12 schools. And some of this critical theory is teaching that police officers are just gunning down minorities with impunity.” It creates a hatred of law enforcement in young children, he said.
Bucks County Sheriff Fred Harran introduced DeSantis.
“The police are the public, and the public are the police, and the public must have confidence in the police in order to be safe,” he said. “There must be accountability (for those who commit crimes).” While the suburban countries still adhere to that credo, many cities, including Philadelphia, do not, Harran added.
“Back when I took the test in 1986 (to become an officer), there were 1,400 people [taking the test]. Now we’re lucky if we get 100, 125.”
Afterward, Harran said he supported DeSantis “as the governor of Florida, and we’ll see what road the governor takes. Any comment (on supporting DeSantis for president) would be premature, but I like what I heard today.”
Upper Salford Area 3 GOP leader Kurt Stein said DeSantis has “a great message. And I think it resonates with everyone. We need law enforcement to be able to do their jobs without having district attorneys not obeying the laws of the state. And the most important things to people are schools and crime, and he hit all of that. Woke ideology is destroying the country our founding fathers created.”
State Sen. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery/Bucks) called DeSantis “impressive.”
“I think he has the right message at the right time,” said Rep. Craig Williams (R-Chadds Ford). “One thing we can do right now is stand up with our votes and say, ‘We support our police.’”
And Liz Havey, Montco Republican chair, said, “DeSantis talked about solutions and the crowd loved it. Law enforcement is critical to society and working with them and supporting them like Gov. DeSantis has helped Florida have a record low crime rate–just the opposite of what we are living with in Philadelphia, where elected officials have done the opposite.”