On Jan. 8, Ron DeSantis became the 46th governor of Florida. In some ways, Republican DeSantis’ path to the executive mansion in Tallahassee was similar to that taken by his predecessor, Rick Scott.
Both men won their Republican primary contest against more establishment GOP challengers. In Scott’s case it was Brooksville native Bill McCollum. In 2010, most political observers thought McCollum, a former U.S. House member and Florida attorney general, would have little trouble besting Scott in the primary. When Scott emerged as the GOP gubernatorial candidate, some of the same people thought Scott would have a hard time beating Democrat Adelaide “Alex” Sink, a former banking executive.
In 2018, some of the same folk thought the Republican primary for governor was Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam’s to lose. He lost. In the general election campaign, most polls and many pundits suggested DeSantis, in part because of his ties to President Donald Trump, would be defeated by Democrat Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee. Wrong again.
One big difference, at least initially, is the relations between Scott and DeSantis and the state capital news media. Scott’s early dealings with the media were so contentious we suggested he was making a mistake. Confounding us a bit and others a lot, Scott won re-election in 2014 and a seat in the U.S. Senate in November.
DeSantis, however, is taking a less-pugilistic approach to dealing with the media. He is doing this even though an off-hand comment he made during the general election was presented by the media as a racial slur directed at Gillum.
Perhaps DeSantis’ decision to name some Democrats to posts in his administration has defused some potential rancor. Let’s see if it lasts.