Florida’s youngest ever governor is a news juggernaut.
Ron DeSantis has been in office less than 10 days and it feels like a month given all his activity: Naming two Supreme Court justices. Righting a racial injustice that languished 70 years before he took office. Suspending bumbling local officials. Rescinding high-profile board and commission appointments. Initiating sweeping environmental reforms. Even castigating Airbnb over its West Bank policies.
Never in modern Florida history has a governor started off so bold, energetic and resolute as this fellow who barely won after running a campaign that signalled no bold agenda.
“There’s a lot about Ron DeSantis that Floridians have yet to learn. He’s a very gritty guy,” U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a key adviser, said of the Yale and Harvard Law-educated governor, noting that DeSantis focused at least as much on policies as administration hires during the transition.
At one point in that post-election period, Gaetz, chief of staff Shane Strum and transition team leader Susie Wiles holed up at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club to map out a proposed first 100 days.
“The governor comes in and says he loves it — but would like to do all of it in January,” Gaetz said.
As striking as the contrast is between DeSantis’ campaign and early, pedal-to-the-metal governing style, consider how the Fox News partisan has managed to please so many Democrats on key policies.
No way the bipartisan goodwill lasts, but the early moves sent a reassuring message to the 50.4 percent of Florida voters who cast ballots for someone else.
Chris Hand, a Jacksonville lawyer and Democratic strategist who worked on the bipartisan Groveland Four Clemency Coalition, hailed DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet for so quickly pardoning the young men wrongfully accused of rape in 1949.
“To the extent that this is Gov. DeSantis signaling that he wants to be a leader for all Floridians, that would be a welcome change from the previous administration,” he said.
Democratic St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman applauded DeSantis’ emphasis on environmental protection and plan to create an Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to respond to rising sea levels.
“Every city in this state is going to need help addressing issues of mitigation and adaptability, and we could be real partners,” Kriseman said.
Former gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is among those with deep concerns about Richard Corcoran as education commissioner, given his support for diverting public money away from traditional public schools, and staunch Medicaid critic Mary Mayhew, who’s running Florida’s health programs.
Graham called herself cautiously optimistic about the new governor.
“Call me in six months, and we’ll see what I think then.”
The patron saint of DeSantis’ style seems to be Alexander Hamilton. First came the damaging campaign revelations that Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum had accepted free Hamilton tickets from an FBI agent posing as a Tallahassee developer.
Then there is the governing advice Hamilton offered in the Federalist Papers more than 200 years ago.
“Alexander Hamilton wrote, ‘Energy in the executive is the leading character in the definition of good government,’ ” DeSantis noted in his inaugural address. “I agree.”