Ron DeSantis defeats Charlie Crist in Florida governor's race
Floridians have re-elected Republican Ron DeSantis as governor of Florida over former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Associated Press reported.
Why it matters: DeSantis' easy victory will fuel speculation that he's ready to set his sights on the White House in 2024.
- DeSantis, 44, retains his position as the GOP's most obvious foil to former President Trump, who branded him as "Ron DeSanctimonious" at a rally last weekend.
- His win delivers the seat to the GOP for the seventh time in a row.
Flashback: DeSantis, who squeaked by Democratic challenger Andrew Gillum in 2018 with Trump's endorsement, surprised Floridians early with an array of progressive actions that had even Democrats applauding.
- In his first few weeks in office, he unveiled a sweeping environmental agenda; pardoned the Groveland Four, a group of Black men wrongly accused of rape in 1949; and announced he would drop the state's legal challenges to smoking medical cannabis, a fight former Republican Gov. Rick Scott waged for two years.
Yes, but: His term turned more partisan during the COVID-19 pandemic, as DeSantis and other Republican governors blasted federal officials and policies they perceived to be overreacting and overreaching.
Zoom in: DeSantis has since engaged in increasingly aggressive political gambits.
- He capitalized on a rising furor over the teaching of "critical race theory" in public schools and championed the "Stop WOKE Act," which limits how public schools and private companies teach diversity and inclusion.
- He championed the Parental Rights in Education bill, denounced by opponents as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, which sought to prohibit schools from teaching anything about sexual orientation and gender identity to students in third grade and below, among other things.
- In a surprise announcement, he removed from office the twice-elected Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, a Democrat who signed statements with other prosecutors that criticized the criminalization of abortion and health care for transgender people.
- And he touted orchestrating an operation to deceptively recruit migrants from Texas for secretive charter flights to Martha's Vineyard.
What they're saying: DeSantis will view his win as a mandate from voters to keep pushing Florida farther to the right, Florida International University political science professor Eduardo Gamarra told Axios' Martin Vassolo.
- "He has everything to push ahead with his extreme agenda in Florida, I don't think he’s gonna relent at all," Gamarra said. "I think he's gonna push on some of the more controversial issues."
In front of a small crowd at Crist's St. Petersburg election night party, the former governor and congressman congratulated DeSantis.
- "I'm at peace," he told the crowd. "I'm grateful to you all."
What's next: It's unknown whether DeSantis will serve a full four-year term. He sidestepped a question at his only debate with Crist about whether he’d commit to being governor through 2026.
- DeSantis hasn’t done anything to stop speculation that he plans to run for president, and polls show he remains a party favorite.
- He'd likely have to resign to run in 2024, per Florida law.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to add remarks from Charlie Crist.