Courtesy of The Miami Herald
Published January 27, 2019
Historically, newly elected politicians are given 100
days to settle into office and get to work before their actions and policies
are pored over and dissected.
But it took Florida’s new governor less than two weeks to set his agenda and
offer a clear view of how he intends to govern.
During his first 10
days in office, Ron DeSantis led a shock-and-awe campaign
across the state. He appointed two conservative state
Supreme Court justices, visited a hurricane disaster zone
(twice) and unveiled a sweeping environmental agenda in his
first 48 hours alone.
On Friday, one day after announcing plans to overhaul the
state’s medical marijuana regulations, he ordered the
removal of Palm Beach County Elections chief Susan Bucher —
the third politician he’s suspended since being sworn into
office on Jan. 8. And then he explained a decision to
rescind nearly four dozen of his predecessor’s nominations
to state boards.
Though he’s barely had time to get settled, DeSantis is
already carving out a reputation as a constitutionalist
intent on fulfilling promises and crushing politicians who
cross him. He has impressed even his critics and rallied the
Republican party around him — all while departing notably
from predecessor Rick Scott.
“If you look at the campaign promises that we made, the
expectation from every Floridian, regardless of whether they voted for us or
not, was we were going to lead and we were going to act,” Lieutenant
Governor Jeanette Nuņez, who has so far played an unusually active role in
what is traditionally a largely ceremonial post, said in an interview. “He’s
serious about getting things done. It’s not just about campaign promises and
Whether intentionally or not, much of DeSantis’ early agenda has focused on
cleaning up issues that Scott left behind.
On Friday, he rescinded Scott’s Nov. 30 suspension of Broward County
Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes, who’d been removed from office despite
her stated plans to resign following a controversial recall. DeSantis, who
would otherwise have had to conduct a hearing on her removal, said he wanted
to “move beyond this controversy.” Then, a few hours later, he rescinded 46
of Scott’s lame-duck appointments to state boards, although he’s indicated
that he’ll renominate some of the same people.
Those moves came one day after DeSantis held a press conference in Orlando
to say that he would drop the state’s legal challenges to the ability to
smoke medical cannabis — all-but ending a legal battle that Scott’s
Department of Health had waged following the 2016 passage of a
constitutional amendment approving the use of medical marijuana.
“We’ve got a lot of fish to fry in Florida,” said DeSantis, who also wants
to loosen up marijuana business regulations. “The last thing I want to be
doing is cleaning up for something that should have happened two years ago.”
DeSantis, who was praised widely by Democrats following the announcement,
has also been generally lauded by the opposition for announcing on his third
day in office that he’d push to secure an additional $1.5 billion for
Everglades restoration and water resources during his four-year term. His
environmental platform — which includes a new office to tackle the
consequences of climate change — took on added importance after toxic algae
blooms blossomed on Lake Okeechobee and red tide flourished under Scott’s
DeSantis has also called for the resignations of the entire Scott-appointed
board of the South Florida Water Management District.
Still, though Florida’s new governor has been rubbing away Scott’s imprint
on the state as he places his own fingerprints on the government, DeSantis
and Scott — now a U.S. Senator — insist there’s no friction between the two
“While the press corps and some Tallahassee insiders seem intent on trying
to create conflict between Senator Scott and Governor DeSantis, that’s not a
game we’re interested in playing,” said Chris Hartline, Scott’s spokesman.
“When he was governor, Senator Scott made the decisions he did based on the
law and the information he had at the time.”
Feud or no, DeSantis has certainly shown a different style than Scott, who
relied on talking points during press gaggles, routinely avoided answering
reporters’ questions and relegated his top lieutenants to secondary roles.
DeSantis has called regular press conferences and been willing to elaborate
on his positions. Nuņez has accompanied him at all his “major”
announcements. And he signaled that he meant what he said when he told
lawmakers that he respected their role in the government when, instead of
declaring changes to Florida’s marijuana policies, he gave the Legislature
time to tackle the issue through legislation.
Florida’s new governor is also, in some ways, benefiting from the
low-hanging fruit Scott left behind.
On his first Friday in office, DeSantis and the newly constructed Florida
Cabinet pardoned the Groveland Four, a group of four men who were wrongly
accused of rape in 1949 and then murdered, tortured or wrongly incarcerated.
The Florida Legislature asked the Florida Cabinet to pardon the men in 2017.
Then, DeSantis flew to South Florida and suspended Broward Sheriff Scott
Israel, whom House Republicans had asked Scott to suspend months ago over
the problematic police response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman
Douglas High School. The decision was strongly supported by the families of
more than a half-dozen shooting victims, including some who campaigned
“Anyone who follows me knows I call things as I see them. It is also known I
worked against @RonDeSantisFL,” tweeted Parkland father Fred Guttenberg.
“That said, I must say that overall, he is having an impressive start as
Guttenberg isn’t alone.
Carlos Guillermo Smith, among the state’s most liberal lawmakers and one of
DeSantis’ most ardent critics last year, declared “progress!” after DeSantis
announced his marijuana position. “Two weeks almost down. LONG way to go,”
tweeted former Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham, “but, please,
keep it up.”
DeSantis’ first two weeks — which included an announced trip to Israel and
the appointment of Florida’s first Hispanic female Supreme Court justice —
were also received well within his own party. DeSantis was present Jan. 12
when the Republican Party of Florida elected Sen. Joe Gruters as its new
chairman. According to Florida Politics, Gruters noted in his acceptance
speech that the party was now “the party of Ron DeSantis.”
DeSantis’ first days haven’t been perfectly smooth. He clashed with the
press after his staff invited reporters to a hurricane disaster recovery
meeting in the Panhandle only to close the doors. And his environmental
roll-out was greeted with skepticism by Senate Democrats, who noted that for
now his “bold” platform has been mostly words.
More clashes are certainly on the way.
Friday’s removal of Bucher may, in fact, signal DeSantis’ first clear battle
with Florida Democrats. Terrie Rizzo, the chairwoman of the state party,
called the act “a gross overreach and a politically motivated move to
consolidate power and obstruct the will of the people.”
But for now, DeSantis’ honeymoon is in full swing. And Nuņez said the
governor’s blistering pace may not necessarily slow down in week number
“There are certainly opportunities for a lot more action,” she said.