Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hit back at California Gov. Gavin Newsom for running an ad in his state.
He called Florida a “citadel of freedom” and bashed Newsom over California losing residents.
Whispers are starting about a potential presidential matchup between the two in 2024.
Newsom in the ad encouraged Floridians to relocate to California, but DeSantis said that the reverse has happened given the strict coronavirus lockdown measures California pursued. Data show California has lost population for two consecutive years, while Florida’s is rising.
“California is driving people away with their terrible governance,” DeSantis said. “They are hemorrhaging population. It’s almost hard to drive people out of a place like California given their natural advantages, yet they’re finding a way to do it.”
DeSantis was speaking at a press conference in Cape Coral, Florida, to announce an executive order to lower prescription drugs. He made the remarks in response to a reporter asking about Newsom’s ad.
In attacking Newsom, DeSantis drew contrasts between both states on issues such as education, crime, and homelessness.
In the fall of 2020, still in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, DeSantis reopened businesses and schools earlier than most states. Though he received criticism for both moves, they endeared him to Republican voters and he has become a major star in the party. Florida also saw a surge in new residents.
“We have created a citadel of freedom here that has attracted people and we are proud of it,” DeSantis said.
Newsom’s campaign didn’t immediately reply to a request to respond to DeSantis’ remarks.
The Newsom ad, which aired on the Fourth of July weekend, criticized Florida’s policies on abortion, children’s books, and LGBTQ communities.
The ad attacked DeSantis-signed laws, including the state’s 15-week abortion ban, math book rejections on the basis of anti-Critical Race Theory and social and emotional learning components, as well as a sex education bill critics have called and the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The back and forth is sure to fuel speculation that DeSantis and Newsom are considering a run for president in 2024. Though President Joe Biden has said he intends to run, and former President Donald Trump keeps hinting at a run, plenty of politicians on both sides of the aisle have been flirting with a run themselves.
DeSantis and Newsom are both up for reelection in Florida and haven’t said whether they plan to seek the White House.
DeSantis often bashes Biden and his policies, leading to national headlines for the governor. Newsom previously crit DeSantis in January over his coronavirus policies.
“Everyone wants to talk about me down here in Florida,” DeSantis said at his press conference Friday. “I’m just sitting here little old me doing my job.”
DeSantis also mocked Newsom for a political scandal in which he called for strict stay-at-home orders on Californians but then was photographed attending a private dinner party at a fine dining establishment called the French Laundry.
“As he was locking down his citizens, he would go and have these extravagant dinners at the French Laundry to basically rub his citizens noses in the fact that he was treating them like peasants,” DeSantis said. “In Florida we weren’t locking them down — we lifted our people up.”
DeSantis didn’t mention a trip Newsom took last week in Montana, which is on California’s list of banned places to travel to using state funds because of its anti-LGBTQ policies. While Newsom was there on holiday to visit his in-laws, and paid for the trip himself, the trip received significant news coverage.
“The travel ban applies to expending state funds,” Erin Mellon, the communications director for Newsom, told Insider about the trip. “The Governor’s travel is not being paid for by the state. Connecting the two is irresponsible and falsely implies there is something untoward.”
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