Ron DeSantis is an American politician and the Republican 46th governor of Florida since 2019. He was previously the representative of Florida’s 6th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 2013 to 2018, and is a candidate in the 2024 United States presidential election.
DeSantis is known for mixed messaging about COVID safety measures, mismanagement of public health during parts of the pandemic, opposing critical race theory despite its absence from the Florida public education system, targeting LGBTQ+ Floridians via legislative efforts like the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, and saying the word “woke” a lot.
You have a movement amongst ... rogue elements of the medical establishment to do things that are basically the mutilation of minors. They're trying to do sex change operations on minors, giving them things like puberty blockers, and doing things that are irreversible to them.
Education and Work
DeSantis graduated from Yale in 2001, then earned his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 2005. He received his officer’s commission in the United States Navy in 2004, where he worked in the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG). He left the navy with an honorable discharge in 2010.
DeSantis was elected representative of Florida’s 6th congressional district in 2012 and sworn into office in 2013. He was reelected to the position in 2014 and 2016. He announced his candidacy for the United States Senate in May of 2015, but withdrew from the race when incumbent Marco Rubio announced his withdrawal from the 2016 presidential election and his intent to run for reelection.
Governor of Florida
In January of 2018, DeSantis filed to run for governor of Florida. Supported by then president Donald Trump, he won the state Republican primaries in August. On September 10th, he resigned from his seat in the House of Representatives. DeSantis’ Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum, initially conceded the race, but later withdrew his concession when DeSantis’ lead narrowed to just 0.4%. Despite a mandatory automatic recount of the votes and one county’s failure to meet the November 15th deadline, DeSantis was declared the winner of the election.
DeSantis’ early tenure as governor included ending stay at home orders and reopening businesses during the pandemic long before the CDC recommended doing so, ending standardized testing in Florida, and accusing China of economic espionage for international academic collaborations.
In 2021, DeSantis campaigned against critical race theory, a collegiate-level academic theory regarding systemic racism which had never been a part of the Floridian public education system. The Florida Board of Education approved a ban on teaching critical race theory in public schools on June 10th, despite the Florida Education Association’s accusations of historical whitewashing and hiding historical facts from students. In December, DeSantis announced the “Stop WOKE Act,” a bill that would allow students and employees to litigate if their school or employer provided education that suggested marginalized groups were oppressed or that majority groups experienced privilege. A federal judge later blocked the bill both in schools and in businesses, stating that it was a violation of the First Amendment.
On June 1st, 2021, DeSantis signed into law SB 1028, the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” barring transgender girls and women from competing in sports at all levels of education in the state of Florida. The law was challenged by a transgender student athlete in May.
In February of 2022, DeSantis expressed support for HB 1557, the “Florida Parental Rights in Education Act,” frequently referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The bill proposed a law that would disallow conversations about sexual orientation or gender identity in Florida classrooms between kindergarten and third grade, and force teachers and school employees to direct children back to their parents for discussions about their “wellbeing.” DeSantis signed the bill into law on March 28th, and would later expand the bill to cover all school grades.
In April of 2022, the Walt Disney Company’s CEO, Bob Chapek, publicly expressed that the law should not have been enacted, and pledged Disney's support to any organization working to repeal the law in courts or through legislation. DeSantis retaliated by eliminating Disney’s fifty-five year old special district, “Reedy Creek.” At the same time, Christopher Rufo, a fellow at conservative think tank The Manhattan Institute and consultant for HB 1557, appeared on Fox News to share leaked videos of a Disney staff meeting about creating LGBTQ+ media and state that Disney was “sexualizing children.” He also published an article in City Journal, the Institute’s public policy magazine, alleging that 35 employees of Disney had been arrested for sexual crimes against children.
In April of 2023, Disney filed suit against DeSantis, alleging that he retaliated against them for exercising their right to free speech.
In May of 2023, DeSantis signed into law SB 254, deeply restricting the right of both transgender youth and adults to access transitional health care. The bill completely blocked access to transgender health care for trans youth, and forced transgender adults to seek written consent from the Florida Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine to pursue transition. Families already engaged in litigation against DeSantis’ anti-transgender bills filed a motion to have the effects of SB 254 blocked.
Once seen as a credible Republican contender for the presidency in 2024, polling of the Republican primary has greatly favored former president Donald Trump.