TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated his pledge to combat the “woke mob” and touted his achievements over the last four years during his inauguration in Tallahassee on Tuesday.
In front of the steps of the Historic Capitol and before thousands of politicians, lobbyists, donors and the public, DeSantis gave a mostly boilerplate denunciation of his political opponents and again proclaimed that “freedom lives” in Florida.
“We seek normalcy, not philosophical lunacy,” he said. “We will never surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die.”
DeSantis also blasted politicians in Washington and the federal government, calling it a “sprawling, unaccountable bureaucracy” that “looms over us and imposes its will upon us.”
Tuesday marks the start of DeSantis’ second term.
Four years ago, he was a little-known lawmaker from the Jacksonville area who narrowly defeated former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. During his 2019 inauguration speech, DeSantis pledged to “stand for the rule of law” and vowed that Florida “will not allow sanctuary cities.”
Since then, his profile has grown, in part because of his combativeness toward political opponents, his resistance to coronavirus-related restrictions and his frequent high-profile political actions, such as flying migrants to the wealthy enclave of Martha’s Vineyard, suspending local officials and touting voting-fraud-related arrests of people with felonies.
In November, he defeated former Gov. Charlie Crist by nearly 20 points, the largest margin by a GOP governor in the state’s history.
His victory — a bright spot for the GOP nationally in the November elections — garnered a flurry of speculation that he would challenge former President Donald Trump for president in 2024.
DeSantis has shied away from the speculation, and his speech on Tuesday gave no hints toward his future political aspirations.
Instead, he focused on his achievements over the last four years: making educational changes, ending “judicial activism,” spending money on the environment, addressing “deficiencies in Florida’s election administration” and standing for “law and order.”
“We have articulated a vision for a free and prosperous state. We have, through persistence and hard work, executed on that vision,” he said. “We have produced favorable results.
“And now we are here today because the people of Florida have validated our efforts in record fashion.”
DeSantis gave few hints about his priorities for the next four years, beyond wanting to offer “record tax relief” for families and giving parents more control over their children’s schooling.
“We will enact more family-friendly policies to make it easier to raise children, and we will defend our children against those who seek to rob them of their innocence,” he said to a standing ovation.
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Democratic lawmakers criticized DeSantis’ lack of ideas. House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said in a statement that it was “directed at GOP primary voters and billionaire donors.”
The speech was “incredibly boring and contained no new ideas,” Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said in a statement. “No actual issues that every day families deal with — like housing affordability — were even mentioned.”
More than 3,000 people braved the chance of rain outside the Capitol to attend the inauguration, according to the governor’s office. They included Tallahassee lobbyists, conservative commentators, former Gov. Jeb Bush and a slew of current and former legislators.
Conservative radio host Glenn Beck was seated in the front row and loaned DeSantis a rare Bible from 1782 for his swearing-in, Beck told conservative media outlet The Blaze.
The governor’s inauguration festivities included a candlelit dinner Monday for donors who gave between $25,000 and $1 million. Unlike four years ago, when the inaugural committee released the list of donors, this year none of the donors or their donations have been disclosed.
After Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony, “A Toast to One Million Mamas” was scheduled at the governor’s mansion at 2 p.m. and the inaugural ball at Florida State University at 6 p.m. Unlike the events four years ago, both are closed to reporters.