Here’s one thing that’s totally clear – Governor Ron DeSantis dominated his first week in office. Starting with a strong inaugural speech that established his conservative approach to governing and ending with the removal of the Broward County sheriff whose department botched the law enforcement response to the 2018 Parkland school massacre. Those were the bookends. In between, DeSantis appointed a Cuban-American woman to the state supreme court – a first, unveiled environmental policies that he promised during the campaign, demanded the resignations of every board member on the South Florida Water Management District, suspended the Okaloosa Schools Superintendent following a grand jury investigation and during the first meeting of the state Clemency Board pardoned the “Groveland Four” – four African-American men who were falsely accused of raping a white woman seventy years ago.
One thing that DeSantis team seems to clearly understand is the power of the visual narrative. It probably helps that First Lady Casey DeSantis is a former TV news anchor.
Standing inside the historic Freedom Tower in Miami to announce his first pick for the Florida Supreme Court DeSantis was surrounded by his wife, his female Lt. Governor and his female Supreme Court selection. The image shows he cares about women, who are increasingly bolting the Republican Party.
When he announced his new environmental policies Thursday, there was DeSantis wearing a lifejacket during a boat tour of an area impacted by Red tide. Another visual of a governor carrying out his campaign promises to address toxic algae polluting Florida’s waters. Even environmental groups, which tend to lean left, gave the governor his due.
And then pushing the full pardon of the Groveland Four, an issue import to African-Americans who sought a resolution to a grave injustice.
In short, DeSantis showed he’s not former governor Rick Scott. That’s not bashing Scott. It’s very clear though that DeSantis will not be a continuation of the Scott administration. The two men are different. They are different types of Republicans. And it’s already apparent that DeSantis will govern differently than Scott.
Scott’s last minute appointments to 80 boards and commissions also appears to have soured, a least temporarily, the relationship between the two men. DeSantis says he’ll rescind the appointments that require Senate confirmation. That impacts only a handful of the appointments. Team DeSantis believes Scott should have given the new governor the opportunity to make those appointments. Scott said he was simply working until the end of his term.
The last minute spat isn’t lost on Tallahassee’s political establishment. A longtime Republican political operative told me, “Scott is the 100th ranking Senator because he petulantly refused to be sworn in last week, claiming some crap about ‘fighting to the last day.’ All he did was reward cronies and sycophants, and tarnish others who didn’t deserve to be lumped in with the more egregious appointees. DeSantis in contrast is moving swiftly and smartly, removing Israel (which Scott never did), appointing a well received Supreme Court female jurist, and stuck to his promise with environmental policy.”
Scott was never the darling of the Tallahassee establishment. Just like Scott was unknown to them eight years ago, DeSantis also isn’t a creature of the state capitol. Based on his first week in office, many of those insiders view DeSantis as a breath of fresh air. He seems more like Jeb Bush than any other Republican governor.
Even the mainstream media, which spent months labeling DeSantis as Trump’s lapdog, acknowledges the governor’s quick start out of the gates. One media member described it as “drinking from a fire hydrant.” This love affair won’t last forever. DeSantis’ team knows that, but even his harshest critics must admit the governor has made all the right moves in his first week in office. Let’s see how the next 207 weeks go.