Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told a crowd in Simi Valley on Sunday that the “woke mind virus” that infiltrated schools, businesses and other institutions in California and other Democratic strongholds led to an influx of residents to his state, sparking the popularity of his anti-liberal policies.
Widely seen as a contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, DeSantis took a mild prod at California Governor Gavin Newsom, much to the delight of the 1,000 or so people who came to see him at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and lashed out at the pandemic closures and vaccine mandates in what has become grist to his rising popularity within the GOP.
“We had a great experiment, a great test in governance philosophies,” DeSantis told an audience in the library’s spacious Air Force One pavilion. “The American people… voted with their feet. And if you look at the past four years, we’ve witnessed a major American exodus from states run by left-wing politicians who are imposing a left-wing ideology and getting bad results.”
Spicing his remarks with statistics comparing Florida’s track record in education, business creation, tourism, unemployment and other measures to states like California and New York, DeSantis said his state’s results “speak for themselves.”
DeSantis’ performance in Simi Valley attracted both conservative celebrities, including former California governor Pete Wilson and actor Gary Sinise, and a crowd of largely peaceful protesters. However, one of the entrance signs to the library was spray painted with “Ron DeFascist” overnight. Simi Valley police said there were no witnesses and library staff cleaned it up before the event.
Attendees who arrived at the library were greeted by about 100 protesters, many with rainbow flags showing their support for the LGBTQ community. “Say Gay Every Day,” read one protester’s sign, a reference to legislation DeSantis signed, known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill because it bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in high school classrooms. kindergarten through third grade.
“I stand as a 52-year-old gay man who had the courage to fight for what I believe in,” said protester Ernest Cornish, who lives in Hollywood and runs a photography company. “God created me in his image, as he intended me to be.”
Jane Wishon, a 67-year-old retiree from West Los Angeles, said DeSantis’s rhetoric on issues such as transgender people’s ability to use the restrooms of their choice is “dangerous.”
“Other groups, whatever they are, make some people feel better about themselves, but that’s not what our country is built on,” she said.
DeSantis’ visit to California includes a Sunday night appearance at a private fundraiser for the Orange County Republican Party in Anaheim.
Speaking at Simi Valley, DeSantis praised his record on education, including restrictions on classroom discussion of gender identity among young students, banning critical race theory, limiting tenure protections for college professors, and increasing the options for schools, including private school scholarships.
“We are not going to teach our students to hate this country or to hate each other. We will not classify students based on skin color. We’re going to teach them what’s important, the content of their character,” he said. “I think parents should be able to send their children to primary school without getting an agenda down their throats.”
The Florida governor, whose wife and two of his three children attended, said he viewed these issues not only as a legislator but as a “father.”
While DeSantis isn’t raising any money for himself on this trip to California, he’s meeting well-to-do donors and influential Republican Party leaders here and at events across the country, promoting his new book, “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival”. .” Additional stops are planned in the coming weeks in Alabama and Florida, as well as the early electoral states of Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Shortly before the book was released Tuesday, Florida’s governor spoke out against Democratic policies at appearances in New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois.
Although DeSantis did not name Newsom, he prodded him as he began his speech. DeSantis has a long-running feud with Newsom, who has accused Florida’s governor of being a bully and criticized his approach to abortion, immigration and other issues.
“Your governor is very concerned about what we’re doing in Florida, so I thought I should come over,” DeSantis said to applause and laughter on Sunday.
Newsom welcomed DeSantis to the “true state of liberty” in a statement released Sunday.
“Just look at the data — California residents are safer, healthier and more affluent than those unlucky enough to have you as their governor,” Newsom said. “Oh, by the way, you’re going to get smoked by Trump.”
The sprawling mountaintop presidential library where DeSantis appeared is home to replicas of the White House Oval Office, Rose Garden, and South Lawn, as well as the graves of Reagan and his wife, Nancy. A host of four GOP primary debates, the library has practically become a required pilgrimage for Republican presidential candidates.
This is especially true leading up to the 2024 presidential campaign given the California primary in early March, which could affect determining the party’s nominee due to the size of the state’s delegation to the Republican National Assembly. Convention.
Others who have spoken there include former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has announced a bid for the White House, as well as former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and former Wisconsin Rep. Liz Cheney.
About 37% of California Republican voters support DeSantis in the presidential contest, while 29% favor former President Trump, according to a poll published in late February by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times. The other GOP leaders mentioned above, as well as other potential candidates, received single-digit support in the poll.
DeSantis is seen by some GOP politicians as the party’s best chance at preventing Trump from winning the nomination and reducing their chances of defeating President Biden.
Trump has already set his sights on his fellow Floridian, giving DeSantis nicknames like “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
On Sunday, DeSantis did not mention Trump during his 45-minute speech. Instead, he focused on another former president — Reagan — stating that his efforts are in line with the priorities and core beliefs of the nation’s 40th president.
“It is not easy to fight. When we stand up and you stand for what’s right, and you stand for the things that President Reagan stood for, and so many other great leaders, there’s a cost to that these days. The left won’t let you advance its agenda without contesting it. They’ll smear you, they’ll attack you,’ he said. But “we must win the fight for freedom, and if we do, we will win another one for the Gipper.”