Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is making a pilgrimage to California to woo influential Republicans


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, considered the biggest threat to former President Trump’s 2024 White House campaign, will travel to Southern California this weekend to promote his new book and fundraise for Republicans in conservative strongholds.

DeSantis, who is often associated with Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, has not officially announced his candidacy for the presidency. Still, his appearance Sunday in front of about 2,000 well-heeled donors and influential Republicans in Simi Valley and Anaheim is another sign that he is considering a bid for the GOP nomination.

California is a good stop for presidential candidates because the state is a major source of campaign cash for politicians of both parties. DeSantis’ visit also comes as polls show him ahead of Trump among Republican voters in the state as the party’s presidential nominee next year.

GOP strategist Kevin Spillane said DeSantis is a perfect fit for California Republicans tired of the drama surrounding the former president and looking for an experienced politician with a conservative background on issues like taxes, regulations and COVID policy.

“You might not like her, but she’s smart, tough and capable. “Most Republicans are looking for a strong president, not a hug from our candidate,” said Spillane, who gave $6,000 to DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign last year.

While Spillane chose former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has announced a presidential campaign, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who is expected to launch a bid, DeSantis said he believes the former president is the best choice to challenge him.

“I think he’s the only person who can stop Trump and he can bring the party together,” said Spillane, who has opposed Trump since the 2016 election.

GOP strategist Rob Stutzman noted that much of DeSantis’ experience in Florida would appeal to California Republicans, but some of his decisions, including the Walt Disney Co. in Burbank After the company challenged a Florida law banning the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, DeSantis signed the law ending business autonomy in the roughly 40 square miles that includes Walt Disney World and other properties.

“I don’t know if anyone wants to feel patronizing Disney,” Stutzman said. “But that started to conflict with the fascist idea of ​​using the government to sway the discourse to your point of view.”

DeSantis writes about his feud with the company in his book, “The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Plan for America’s Rebirth,” released Tuesday. In the chapter, titled “The Magic Kingdom of Awakened Corporatism,” DeSantis said he advised then-CEO Bob Chapek to avoid fighting what critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

He will discuss the book Sunday afternoon in front of about 1,000 people at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. Later that evening, he will host a fundraiser for the Orange County Republican Party at an Anaheim resort. More than 900 people bought tickets to the private fundraiser – from $500 to $15,000 to become a platinum sponsor, which includes VIP admission, photos with the governor and an autographed copy of his book.

Demonstrations are planned, including one by Trump supporters in Newport Beach on Sunday afternoon.

Orange County GOP leaders would not disclose the location of DeSantis’ evening appearance. Still, they said the district was the biggest event in the party’s history, a remarkable feat in a historically conservative stronghold that then-President Reagan described in 1988 as “a place where good Republicans go until you die.”

Fred Whitaker, the county’s GOP chairman, expects DeSantis’ appearance to be blocked by candidates other than the White House because California has pushed the presidential election to March 2024. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is evaluating the presidential candidate, will appear on March 20; Haley and Scott should visit them soon.

While California is overwhelmingly Democratic, it is home to millions of GOP voters and some of the nation’s largest political donors.

In 2020, the state was the primary source of funding for Joe Biden’s campaign committee, as well as outside groups supporting his candidacy — all of which
$300 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. California was the third-largest source of more than $92 million in financial aid for Trump and independents supporting him. These figures are significantly underestimated because they do not include contributions to political action committees or individual donations of less than $200.

Although DeSantis did not raise funds for himself during the trip, Californians have contributed more than $800,000 to his 2022 re-election bid for Florida governor. In September, he spearheaded the couple’s $25,000 down payment on a $50 million, 30,000-square-foot Newport mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean owned by “Hidden Billionaire” star Glenn Stearns and his wife Lomers Angeles. entertainment reporter. Stearns made his fortune by starting a mortgage company.

DeSantis was popular with small donors in California, including Gershon Luria, 71, of Alameda County.

“I love it. I will donate to him when I have money, especially if he decides to run,” said Luria, who gave $25 to the political action committee. -DeSantis in 2021. He said he and his wife “live on our pension and everything we can afford.” But I will give as much as I can.”

California also has the largest number of Republican voters of any state in the country and the largest delegation to the 2024 Republican National Convention.

“If you’re even planning to run for president of the United States, you need to be in California before the primary in March,” Whitaker said. “You’re going to see these candidates spend time in the field.”

State GOP Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said California was a double draw for candidates given the state’s wealth of donors and delegates.

“We see a lot of these candidates coming through California not just to raise money, although that’s an added benefit, but to meet with voters and convince them why they should be our candidate,” he said. he declared.

DeSantis is expected to meet with wealthy supporters during his brief trip to California. GOP strategists said his experience in Florida is attractive to donors opposed to Newsom’s liberal policies, including the pandemic restrictions he enacted early in the crisis.

“Governor. DeSantis brings a lot more to a party in California than we do here. Running the state with fewer taxes and fewer regulations appeals to many Californians,” said Howard Hucks, president of the New Majority, the state’s largest Republican political action committee.

Hax said DeSantis’ tenure in Florida is a stark contrast to Newsom’s tenure.

“If we were to put the two states side by side, it was easier to operate in Florida than in California, especially during the pandemic,” Hucks said.

The two governors, who were easily re-elected to second terms in November, have often used themselves on issues such as abortion, immigration and education.

On July 4, Newsom’s first campaign ad aired in Florida, urging residents of the state to fight DeSantis’ policies or move to California, saying “we still believe in freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom to hate and freedom to love.”

DeSantis responded by accusing Newsom of treating Californians like “peasants” over the state’s pandemic shutdown, while his spokesman said Newsom had made the state “hell.”

Since then, the two men spoke.

“Newsom’s hair gel is interfering with his brain,” DeSantis said after fighting on immigration policy last year. Newsom counters that they’re debating: “I’m bringing hair gel. You bring your hairspray. Name the time leading up to election day.

Times writer Vanessa Arredondo contributed to this report.

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