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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida Democrats call DeSantis an absentee governor after his State of the State address

AP Photo
Gary McCullough
AP Photo

Florida Democrats blasted Gov. Ron DeSantis’ State of the State address, arguing it avoided important issues that may be inconvenient for his 2024 Presidential run.

Florida Democrats blasted Gov. Ron DeSantis’ State of the State address, arguing it avoided important issues that may be inconvenient for his 2024 Presidential run.

DeSantis fit in the annual address between his ongoing campaigning efforts in early presidential primary states. In it, he lauded his legislative achievements last year, urged the Republican-controlled legislature to continue it into 2024, and blasted several Democrat-controlled states and cities.

To Democrats, like St. Petersburg Representative Michelle Rayner, he was speaking to a national audience in his speech, not the people of Florida.

“We heard a lot about San Francisco. We heard a lot about Chicago. We heard a lot about Washington D.C. But we did not hear about were the people of the state of Florida. Instead, the people were gaslit. And they were gaslit by false promises. They were gaslit by narratives that weren’t accurate,” Rayner said during a press conference held after DeSantis’ speech.

House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell’s response to DeSantis’ speech echoed Rayner’s. She said the governor was focused more on the campaign trail than the issues impacting Floridians.

“Our absentee Governor, your governor, visited all 99 counties in Iowa, while our property insurance rates, rent and cost of living skyrocketed. And over 306,000 of our children lost their health insurance in Florida’s disastrous Medicaid disenrollment,” Driskell said.

Another common theme in DeSantis’ address was to stay the course of the legislature’s actions during the 2023 session. Broward Senator Shevrin Jones said during a press conference that staying course is impossible for working Floridians.

“The reality is, however, is that the state of the state isn’t strong when families can’t afford to make ends meet. Staying the course means going the same route, doing the same thing, and that route is just too expensive for the average Floridian,” Jones said.

Jones, who is also a 2024 Biden-Harris campaign surrogate, said President Joe Biden is picking up DeSantis’ slack in Florida.

“The truth is that President Biden has delivered for Florida where Gov. DeSantis has failed. From lowering out-of-pocket healthcare costs, to protecting reproductive rights, to even investing in infrastructure,” he said.

DeSantis’ speech was a brief return for him to the Sunshine state. The Iowa caucus is next Monday, so the governor has spent the last several weeks and the days to come campaigning in the state. He is currently polling at under 20% among Republican Iowa voters, while former President Donald Trump is over 50%, according to the aggregation conducted by FiveThirtyEight.com.
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Tristan Wood