Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who announced on Wednesday, May 24, he is seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is likely to be former President Donald Trump’s top rival due to his budding national profile and fundraising acumen.
Here are some facts about DeSantis’ life and political career.
A life in public sector
DeSantis, 44, has spent most of his career in public service and government.
While at Harvard Law School, he was commissioned as an officer in the US Navy and upon graduation, joined the Judge Advocate General Corps as an attorney.
In that role, he was assigned to the military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he oversaw the treatment of detainees. Later, he was deployed to Iraq to advise a team of Navy SEALs.
DeSantis worked briefly as an assistant US attorney in Florida before a successful bid for a US congressional seat in 2012. He served in Congress until running for governor in 2018.
DeSantis was largely a political unknown statewide in Florida when he sought the governor’s office and was not favored to win the Republican nomination.
Then he got an endorsement from then-President Trump, whom he praised on the campaign trail and in TV ads. DeSantis ultimately won the election by a tight margin.
Trump has since taken credit for DeSantis’ victory and accused his fellow Republican of being disloyal for considering challenging him for the presidential nomination.
A strong executive
That narrow victory did not convince DeSantis that he should govern by consensus.
As he has detailed in recent speeches, he believed he had a mandate to take full advantage of the powers afforded the governor, saying he wanted to take “all the meat off the bone.”
DeSantis has wielded that power through influencing legislation, punishing his critics and packing the state’s courts, offices and boards with allies. Some political observers in the state capital say he is the most powerful and feared governor in the state’s history.
He won reelection by nearly 20 percentage points in 2022.
A love of baseball
As a young man growing up in Florida, DeSantis’ life was consumed by baseball. His boyhood team in Dunedin, a suburb of Tampa, reached the Little League World Series in 1991. He pitched and played third base. In one game during the series, he hit a homer and struck out 11 batters.
DeSantis served as captain of the varsity baseball team as an undergraduate at Yale University. His Yale jersey hangs in his office in Florida’s Capitol.
COVID and culture warrior
DeSantis is married Casey Black, whom he met when she was a TV reporter. The couple has three children.
He made his name nationally by opposing many of the policies advocated by the US government to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He resisted mask and vaccine mandates, and was determined to keep Florida businesses and tourism destinations open during the bulk of the pandemic.
He has since become a leading figure within the Republican Party in fighting back against what he argues are overly progressive polices favored by educators and corporations.
He has pushed the state legislature to pass prohibitions against the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” – which argues the nation is riven with systemic racism – and concepts of gender identity in public schools. Lawmakers also recently passed a ban on asset managers utilizing environmental, social and governance factors in making investments.
DeSantis is a persistent critic of federal immigration policies. In 2022, he was praised by conservatives and condemned by Democrats when he chartered two planes to fly Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Massachusetts.
Civil rights groups have taken the extraordinary step of issuing warnings about traveling to Florida, saying the state has become hostile to people of color and LGBTQ individuals.
DeSantis has been embroiled in a public fight with Walt Disney Company, which was critical of his efforts to limit school instruction on gender identity.
DeSantis attempted to strip the Walt Disney World theme park of its self-governing powers, and the company responded with a lawsuit. The company’s CEO, Bob Iger, has called DeSantis “anti-business.”
Disney also scrapped plans to build a nearly $1 billion corporate campus in central Florida that would have housed 2,000 employees.
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