For the first time since his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination began, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla, held a public event in the metro Orlando area and his campaign produced a big turnout with the congressman’s team estimating the crowd to be around 1,000 people.
The B.B. King Blues Club in Orlando was not full but it was packed as Republicans came to see DeSantis campaign with Donald Trump Jr. DeSantis has been endorsed by President Donald Trump.
The three-term congressman was introduced by his wife Casey and took several shots at state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, his main rival in the Republican primary which will be held at the end of next month.
While saying he respected Putnam, DeSantis called him a “transactional Republican,” basically claiming that the agriculture commissioner could be bought for the right price and that Tallahassee politics is a series of horse trading. DeSantis said his opponent was “the crown prince of crony capitalism.”
In trying to hammer his point home, DeSantis pointed to the discharges coming from Lake Okeechobee that are plaguing South Florida with algae. DeSantis put that problem squarely on the shoulders of big sugar, insisting Putnam is in the pocket of that industry and pointing to how sugar interests have bankrolled his campaign.
DeSantis also talked about keeping taxes in Florida low, and how the economy and tax rate in the Sunshine State is helping attract businesses and people from high tax states like New York. He even claimed the Empire State has government watchdogs in Florida trying to prove that some New Yorkers are not really living here, trying to take advantage of the lack of an income tax in the Sunshine State. DeSantis said he would remove those government workers immediately upon taking office.
Many in the crowd came to see Trump Jr. The younger Trump told the crowd that DeSantis had been there for his father on day one and earned the president’s endorsement and the support of Florida voters.
Trump Jr. did not have anything to say about his father’s remarks after the Helsinki summit and what the president had to say on his return to the US.
Instead, the younger Trump talked about his father’s presidential bid in 2016, saying “there is no one in this country that needed this job (the presidency) less than him.”
Referencing the current economy, Trump talked about how Democrats laughed when his father promised that his policies would grow the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 4 percent and are not cheering as loudly as they should now. He claimed the GDP will grow 4.5 percent this year.
DeSantis decided not to meet with the media after but did take time to sign several books and posters for the crowd after they pushed towards the stage after the event. Some protesters did attempt to disrupt the event but were quickly escorted out of the room to chants of “USA, USA, USA” while they unsuccessfully tried to unfurl a protest banner.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.