One thing is undeniable: Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Florida, is a controversial political figure who has made a large impact on Florida.
On one side, there is a group of people who admire him, praise him, and believe that he is Florida’s liberator. On the other side, there are people claiming he is a condemnation of Florida’s society and has doomed us all.
With DeSantis seeking a second term in the 2022 Florida gubernatorial election, it is essential to look at his history to properly assess why people perceive him with these perspectives.
DeSantis was born in Florida where he moved from Jacksonville to Orlando, and then to Dunedin. After graduating from Dunedin High School, DeSantis attended Yale University. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A., magna cum laude, in history.
After his undergraduate degree, he attended Harvard Law School while also serving in the military and receiving a multitude of accolades. In 2007, DeSantis reported to the Naval Special Warfare Command Group and was assigned to SEAL Team One, which was deployed in Iraq.
After returning to the U.S., he was reassigned to the Naval Region Southeast Legal Service and the Department of Justice appointed him to serve as an assistant U.S. attorney.
In 2012, DeSantis ran in the Republican primary for Florida’s 6th Congressional District and won with 39% of the vote.
In January 2018, DeSantis announced his candidacy for governor of Florida. With the support of then-President Trump, DeSantis defeated former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum with about 100,000 more votes and has been in office as governor since Jan. 8, 2019.
Ever since, DeSantis has been both praised and criticized for his political decisions. This can be seen in his methods of dealing with COVID-19 protocols, Black Lives Matter protests and LGBTQ legislation.
When it comes to COVID-19 protocols, DeSantis holds a strong stance on anti-mask rights and condemns vaccination mandates. He believes opposition to these mandates is crucial for the freedom of Florida residents.
He pushed this idea so far as to even state that schools with mask mandates are violating the state’s recently passed Parents’ Bill of Rights, which gives parents the last word on health care for their children. DeSantis went on to take legal action and punish schools that presented students with a mask mandate.
As of Nov. 18, 2021, DeSantis signed legislation to prevent the firing of Floridians who decide to opt out of masks and vaccines, having his office write that it is “the strongest pro-freedom, anti-mandate action taken by any state in the nation.”
When it came to the Black Lives Matter protests, DeSantis primarily focused on stopping violence. DeSantis announced the “Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act” in an attempt to decrease the number of protests.
“Our right to peacefully assemble is one of our most cherished as Americans, but throughout the country we’ve seen that right being taken advantage of by professional agitators, bent on sowing disorder and causing mayhem in our cities,” said DeSantis.
DeSantis has been supporting law enforcement for a while now, leading to a heavy influx of endorsements from Amy Mercer, executive director of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. However, when asked about this endorsement, the FPCA declined to comment.
As for the LGBTQ legislation, DeSantis signed a bill disallowing transgender females from playing on public school teams that are categorized as girl-born student athletes. This led to a statewide culture war over transgender rights.
When addressing this issue, DeSantis stated, “Because we believe in fairness, we stood up against woke corporations and the NCAA, and we signed a bill protecting women’s sports.”
When asked their views on DeSantis, the University of Florida College Democrats stated that their members do not support him nor his policies or beliefs. They labeled him as “a carbon copy of Trump,” with many “large unconstitutional, discriminatory, and invasive” mandate policies, such as HB 1, the anti-protest bill, and HB 233, which the UF Democrats say “requires university students and faculty to report political beliefs.”
When asked the same question, the UF College Republicans shared that DeSantis is “making the hard yet right decisions that promote advocacy, transparency, and accountability.” They also pointed out that all people who oppose his decisions “fail to understand the fundamental concepts of progress and instead lean toward appeasement.”
With all this controversy, DeSantis still has a significant upper hand in poll results compared to his political counterparts for the 2022 Florida gubernatorial election, according to poll predictions.
At the Turning Point USA 2021 Student Action Summit, DeSantis left everyone with the following remark: “Whoever succeeds me is not going to have a lot on their plate because I’m taking everything there is to do and getting it done.”
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Featured image taken by Mikhail Mikhaylov.