Florida Governor DeSantis refuses to serve full term

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A challenge Florida Governor Ron DeSantis refused to serve a full four-year term if re-elected under pressure from his Democrat rival, Charlie Cristduring their only gubernatorial debate on Monday.

Crist, a former congressman and one-term governor, accused DeSantis, a rising Republican star who is considered a likely 2024 presidential contender, too distracted by their national political ambitions to govern properly. DeSantis fended off several attempts by Cristo to get him to say he would serve a full second term.

“I know Charlie’s interested in talking about 2024 and Joe Biden, but I just want to make it very, very clear: The only worn-out old donkey I’m going to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist,” DeSantis said. his 66-year-old opponent.

Crist later responded, “You won’t even say if you want to be governor of Florida after this election.”

During the heated debate, which covered the COVID-19 pandemic, abortion, crime, education and President Joe Biden, there were some heated fights. The meeting took place on the first day of statewide early voting; more than 1.1 million votes have already been cast, the largest number in the country.

Florida’s gubernatorial race may not be the most competitive in the country this fall, but it’s no less important to DeSantis, a 44-year-old Harvard-educated Republican who could launch a presidential bid in the coming months. He hopes to use a strong Nov. 8 re-election victory in the state of Florida received only 32,000 votes up from 8.2 million cast four years ago to demonstrate the breadth and strength of their support.

DeSantis has benefited from demographic shifts in Florida, a perpetually swing state shifted to the right during his first term. Former President Donald Trump increased the state by more than 3 points in 2020, and Republicans now have a nearly 300,000 voter registration advantage.

Monday’s debate gave voters in Florida and beyond a rare opportunity to see DeSantis under pressure. Like many top GOP officials across the country this fall, he has had limited off-the-record moments in recent months, except for occasional interviews with conservative-friendly media outlets.

The candidates faced each other behind the wooden bleachers in Fort Pierce, Florida at the Sunrise Theater. Both seemed to enjoy the hour-long fight, which was repeatedly interrupted by a boisterous crowd.

DeSantis’ embrace of divisive cultural issues has had a profound effect on the prime-time case.

The Republican governor specifically defended his record ban transgender girls from competing on public school teams designed for student-athletes who are identified as girls at birth. He also responded to Crist’s criticism of laws signed by DeSantis that restrict discussion of race and sexual orientation in schools and his opposition to the treatment of minors related to gender transition.

“You think you know better than any doctor, or any doctor, or any woman,” Crist said. “It is necessary to lead by uniting people, not by dividing them.”

Yet DeSantis has delighted his fans time and time again with his unusual willingness to fight — whether it’s facing political opponents, the federal government or powerful Florida business. Crist, a former Republican governor who most recently served as a Democratic congressman, tried to position himself as a moderate alternative to lead the long-serving state.

DeSantis’ leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Yang were also charged topics.

Crist noted that DeSantis closed businesses and schools across the state at the start of the pandemic, then ignored the science by opening them too early, leading to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

“We had one of the highest death rates in America, Ron,” Crist said.

“He called for hard shutdowns,” DeSantis replied. “It would throw millions of Floridians into turmoil.”

Again and again, DeSantis also sought to connect Christo with Biden, whose popularity is falling in Florida and across the country. “Charlie Crist voted for Joe Biden 100% of the time,” DeSantis said, referring to the “Christ-Biden agenda.”

The debate was postponed earlier this month because of Hurricane Ian, which killed more than 100 people on the state’s southwest coast. Thousands of homes were destroyed and several schools remain closed in Lee County, a major Republican stronghold.

The Category 4 storm exposed flaws in the state’s volatile property-insurance market, which has lost more than $1 billion in each of the past two years. Hundreds of thousands of Floridians have had their policies canceled or not renewed.

Crist accused DeSantis of failing to handle the insurance crisis. DeSantis blamed Crist for being absent during the storm.

“He was hiding in Puerto Rico. He didn’t help his community, DeSantis poked.

As the debate turned to gun violence, both candidates said they would support the death penalty for Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing 17 people in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.

DeSantis added that he will push the Legislature to change the requirements of state laws unanimous jury for death sentences. That would put Florida in a distinct minority among the 27 states that still have the death penalty, nearly all of which require a unanimous decision by a jury.

“I’m going to ask the Florida Legislature to amend that statute so that one juror does not have the power to veto the appropriate punishment,” DeSantis said.

Crist also sought to make abortion a key focus, following the playbook of Democrats across the country after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

In April, DeSantis signed the law banning abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. When asked by the moderator, DeSantis declined to say whether he supports a total abortion ban.

“You deserve a better governor who cares about freedom and your right to choose,” Crist said.

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