Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking his extremist politics on the road as he prepares to launch a potential presidential campaign. The next stop? Michigan, which under Democratic leadership, stands in sharp contrast to the political landscape in Florida.
MICHIGAN—Florida leaders have a warning for Michiganders:
“You can’t afford to buy what Ron DeSantis, the traveling salesman, is trying to sell you.”
That’s according to Barbara Zdravecky, the former CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. Her tip comes Wednesday as DeSantis, governor of the Sunshine State, prepares for a Thursday visit to Michigan for a Midland County Republican Party fundraiser.
Activists and politicians from both Michigan and Florida spoke out on the eve of DeSantis’ visit to express their collective disapproval for the governor’s discriminatory policies on public education, reproductive freedom, gun safety, LGBTQ rights, immigration, and more.
Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, joined Zdravecky to speak out against DeSantis on a press call hosted by Progress Michigan. He said DeSantis’ politics have pushed Florida teachers and staff out the door faster than they can hire them back.
“He’s taking away the freedom to learn and the freedom to teach here in Florida,” Spar said.
Added Zdravecky: “Florida is not free. … DeSantis has injected his own extreme, right-wing politics into every aspect of our lives—from kids in the classroom, to women in the exam room.”
Since winning re-election as Florida’s governor last year, DeSantis has emerged as the most likely Republican candidate to face off against former President Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential primary election. And compared to Michigan’s recent progress under Democratic leadership, DeSantis has taken Florida in the opposite direction—by waging war on public education and LGBTQ civil rights, and curtailing reproductive freedoms and voting rights.
Such contrasting policies have even earned Michigan a new nickname: The Anti-Florida.
“We are empowering working people and the unions that represent them. We are protecting abortion rights and reproductive freedom. We are standing with the LGBTQ+ community and expanding their rights, and ensuring that Michigan is an inclusive place,” said Sam Inglot, deputy director of Progress Michigan, an organization dedicated to progressive advocacy .
Inglot also issued a word of caution for DeSantis: “Michigan does not stand for your agenda.”
DeSantis’ frequent travel to other states has been viewed as a prelude to the eventual announcement of his presidential run. This week’s visit to Michigan appears to be no different: To attend the breakfast fundraiser, attendees are paying $100 per plate, and emailed invitations described DeSantis as “one of America’s strongest Republican leaders.”
But several activists and politicians—including Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist—landed on a different description for DeSantis brand of extremist politics and policies: “Wrong for Michigan.”
“This man is certainly wrong for Michigan, and I hope people will show him that when he comes to our state. But he’s also wrong for America,” Gilchrist said on another press call Wednesday. “We won’t let anyone’s far-right agenda be imposed on the people of the state of Michigan.”
When Michigan lawmakers began work to pass gun safety reforms, DeSantis made guns easier to get. And while Whitmer’s administration has set a clear focus on investing in public schools this year, DeSantis—a favorite of Betsy DeVos and her family’s deep pockets—supports a Devos-endorsed plan to siphon cash away from them, and into private schools instead.
“I’m sure it’s not what anyone wants in Michigan, because we certainly don’t want it in Florida,” Spar said of DeSantis’ politics. “At the end of the day, what DeSantis wants to do is consolidate power in his office so that people either do things his way or they can hit the highway.”
During DeSantis’ first term, the governor also passed legislation that took away the freedom of what schools and businesses could say about race, as well as signed into law so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that limited how teachers discuss sexual orientation and gender identity.
Just this week, Gov. Whitmer repealed Michigan’s archaic abortion ban, after more than 57% of Michiganders voted in favor of keeping abortion access legal in November. DeSantis, on the other hand, plans to sign a sweeping abortion ban that’s even more radical than his last one.
“Ron DeSantis’ hateful rhetoric and harmful LGBTQ+ policies are not welcome in our state,” said Leila Vallarino, spokesperson for Equality Michigan Action Network. “Together, we are creating a more welcoming environment for all families who live here, all employees who work here, and all tourists who visit here—no matter how they identify, or who they love.”
Added Inglot: “His crusade against so-called ‘wokism,’ whatever that means, has resulted in laws and administrative orders built around nonsense, right-wing, extremist, culture-war buzzwords—creating a culture of fear and disinformation in Florida. And that’s something we’re not about here in Michigan.”
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