OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had to cancel a trip to New York where he was set to campaign for Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin, the challenger to Democrat New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, after tragedy struck his team.
“An unforeseen tragedy forced Governor DeSantis to reschedule his trip to New York,” Katie Vincentz a spokeswoman for Rep. Zeldin, said, The New York Post reported. “While we’re rescheduling with Governor DeSantis for a later date, tonight’s fundraiser will proceed and is expected to raise almost a million dollars.”
Sadly, the reason for the governor’s absence was because he was attending the funeral for a member of his security detail, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Jose Perez, who was killed after he was responding to a call in an unmarked cruiser when he was struck by Javier Sandoval, 35, in Miami, The New York Post reported.
“Today we mourn the tragic loss of FDLE Special Agent Jose Perez, who died in the line of duty,” the governor’s wife, Casey DeSantis said. “With over 20 years in the U.S. armed forces & more than 30 years in law enforcement, he lived a valiant life serving our nation & state. The entire @fdlepio community is in our prayers.”
The New York governor has attacked Florida recently, suggesting that her Republican political rivals should move there as their values do not represent New York, in her opinion.
But Gov. DeSantis has become a Republican star and bringing him in, which Rep. Zeldin still plans to do, could be a major assistance to him.
At a recent event commemorating the Holocaust, she referred to the stereotype that Jewish people move to Florida in their later years after retirement.
“I just want to say to the 1.77 million Jews who call New York home: Thank you for calling New York home,” she said. “Don’t go anywhere or to another state. Florida is overrated.”
New York GOP State Committee Chair Nick Langworthy hit back with a comment of his own, advising the governor to “give up her creepy obsession with Florida and focus on the crime and economic crises in her own backyard.”
She continued the attack on Monday.
“We’re here to say that the era of Trump and Zeldin and Molinaro – just jump on a bus and head down to Florida where you belong. Get out of town,” the woman who became governor because former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned, said. “You don’t represent our values.”
And DeSantis is so popular currently that Florida Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who previously served a term as a GOP governor of the Sunshine State, has issued an urgent appeal to his party’s donors.
They need to step up now big time and help him defeat current Gov. DeSantis, a rising star in the Republican Party before he becomes too powerful.
There’s just one problem, however: Florida is increasingly less a “battleground” state and has begun to lean much redder under DeSantis’ leadership, with Republican voter registrations now topping registered Democrats for the first time in the state’s history.
“It is the Democrats’ last chance to stop him, and it’s going to be a lot cheaper to do it in Florida than it would be in 50 states,” Crist told CNN last week after winning his party’s primary. “If you want to help (President) Joe Biden get a second term, we need to shut Ron DeSantis down in Florida.”
The undertone of Crist’s urgent message is this: Democrats have to stop DeSantis now before he runs for president because he has a good chance of winning.
Crist’s plea for cash was perhaps as creative as it was nakedly desperate. After exhausting most of the $14 million his campaign and political committee raised to defeat Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the primary, Crist started the 11-week sprint to the general election nearly from scratch. Meanwhile, DeSantis has been waiting for Crist with $132 million on hand, a record sum for a governor’s race.
But Crist’s pitch was also born out of a difficult reality Democrats face in Florida. After 20-plus years of watching devastating and narrow defeats in the Sunshine State, many Democratic donors this cycle are so far taking a break from Florida. The prevailing narrative heading into the fall is that Florida has become too red and DeSantis too powerful for donors to make an investment here.
Democratic Party insiders told the outlet that donors are more focused on right governor’s races in true battleground states like Wisconsin and Michigan. Also, the donors are pouring money into neighboring Georgia to help Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams try to knock off incumbent GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, who is currently leading her in most polling.
“Charlie has a better chance of getting a large check from the tooth fairy under his pillow than he does from national donors,” one Democratic fundraiser told CNN. “I just don’t think they’re focused on Florida’s governor race. I think they’re focused on winnable seats in states where Democrats already hold the governor’s mansion or it’s an open seat.”