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As DeSantis sails towards reelection, Florida newspapers endorse Crist in hopes of ousting 'bully' governor

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is perhaps in the most comfortable position among incumbent governors facing reelection on Tuesday. He has nearly a 12-point advantage over his Democratic rival Charlie Crist and not only is he fairly popular among Florida residents, he is a rising star in the GOP who has appeared all over the country in recent weeks boosting other gubernatorial candidates. 

However, it appears his biggest critics this election cycle have been the local press. 

While DeSantis is sailing towards reelection, the most prominent newspapers in the Sunshine State have all endorsed Crist, signaling the media is out of step with Florida voters. 

“Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Florida is a place of meanness. It’s a place where dissent is muzzled, where personal rights triumph over the greater good, where winning is more important than unity — especially if that victory moves him closer to a White House run. That’s not the Florida we had four years ago. And it’s not a Florida that voters should tolerate for the next four years. There’s a far better choice in the Nov. 8 election: Democrat Charlie Crist,” the Miami Herald editorial board wrote last month. 

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis looks on before the start of a game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators at TIAA Bank Field on October 29, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis looks on before the start of a game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators at TIAA Bank Field on October 29, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida.
(James Gilbert/Getty Images)

After listing several grievances, the Miami Herald admitted “we can’t deny that DeSantis is a highly popular governor within the state and beyond,” calling him a “Trump-like figure without the buffoonery” who can “deftly play both sides against the middle.”

“While denigrating teachers at traditional public schools, for instance, the governor guaranteed $500 million to raise the minimum teacher salary and provide raises for veteran teachers and other instructional personnel; secured the highest-ever per-pupil spending totals at $7,793 per student; replaced standardized tests in schools; invested more than $124 million for Florida’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities; and gave parents an outsize voice in their children’s education — just one skirmish in his culture wars,” the Herald editorial board told readers. 

The Miami paper accused the governor of having a “broad streak of autocrat” that “wants to control every aspect of how Florida functions” while calling Crist “seasoned, smart and reasonable” who “treats people with courtesy.”

“Crist is what we need to return Florida to normalcy and common decency,” the Herald wrote. “He would stop the culture wars over made-up issues that have no bearing on Floridians’ everyday lives and get on with the business of governing. And no matter how much Republicans try to paint Crist as a leftist or socialist, he’s not. Instead, he’s that rarely seen breed in the Florida politics of today: a moderate.”

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After giving DeSantis “credit” for his handling of Hurricane Ian, the Miami Herald concluded he “deeply damaged our state in four years,” saying he “pushed us apart… worked only for the betterment of himself and his drive for higher office” and “marginalized, penalized and ostracized entire groups of people — his constituents — though he spurns them relentlessly.”

“Four more years of this, and what will be left of civil society in Florida? We’ll become unrecognizable. Charlie Crist is the best choice. He’ll work to unite us — Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. He’s what Florida needs — now,” the Herald concluded. 

The Miami Herald headquarters in Doral, Florida. 

The Miami Herald headquarters in Doral, Florida. 
(REUTERS/Joe Skipper)

The Tampa Bay Times posed the question “A decent man or a bully?” in the headline of its endorsement of Crist, saying DeSantis “doubled-down on the tribalism that plagues too much of today’s politics.”

“A bully. Look at how he hectored high school students — teenagers! — who were brought to the University of South Florida for a photo op in March. Seemingly irritated that several kids standing behind him on the stage were masked up, he told them, ‘You don’t have to wear those masks. Please take them off.’ ‘This is ridiculous,’ he went on. His behavior — for all the world to see — would have been unacceptable for their teacher or their principal. Yet, here was the governor bullying a bunch of teenagers. That boorish behavior elicited an avalanche of objections. The critics knew a bully when they saw one, and they were outraged,” the Times wrote. “It’s hard to imagine Charlie Crist acting that way, because he wouldn’t. Crist is a decent man who always asks, ‘What do you think?’ or ‘What would you do?’ That’s not DeSantis’ style. Crist will compromise, which is essential to the long-term health of Florida. At heart, he is a uniter. DeSantis is not. He divides to conquer.”

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Like the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times compared him to former President Trump but “devoid of the charm” who “turned the COVID pandemic into an us vs. them showdown, ‘them’ being anyone who dared advocate for mask wearing or social distancing.” 

“Over their political careers, both DeSantis and Crist have shown the voters who they are. Believe them. No matter what you think about the state of the Florida economy or its schools or its future, no matter what you think of Crist’s past or DeSantis’ presidential ambitions, the choice really is this simple: Do you want the state governed by a decent man or a bully? The Tampa Bay Times recommends voting for Charlie Crist, a man of decency, for governor,” the paper urged readers. 

Florida Gubernatorial candidate Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) gives a victory speech after defeating gubernatorial candidate, Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried in the primary election at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront on August 23, 2022 in St Petersburg, Florida.

Florida Gubernatorial candidate Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) gives a victory speech after defeating gubernatorial candidate, Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried in the primary election at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront on August 23, 2022 in St Petersburg, Florida.
(Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

The Palm Beach Post similarly threw their support behind Crist, writing “Unlike the current occupant, Crist used the levers of state government to bring people together to address challenges, not to bluster, consolidate power and campaign for higher office.”

“Voters shouldn’t tolerate anyone using the election for governor as a springboard at the expense of sober leadership. Florida faces too many challenges and can’t afford a placeholder. It needs a governor committed to this state and its urgent needs,” the Post wrote last month. “Crist, 66, a Democratic congressman from St. Petersburg, has the experience that will serve Florida well. He has shown moderation and a willingness to work across party lines, qualities state leadership today sorely lacks and that drama-weary Floridians miss.”

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The Post wrote DeSantis “began his first term with promise,” calling his initial handling of the pandemic “admirable” but he “now relies on hubris and manufactured culture war drama to govern.”

“Whether it’s snapping at kids for protecting themselves from COVID, redrawing congressional districts to reduce Black electoral power, duping gullible migrants, promising rollbacks of gun restrictions and of abortion access, his priorities have shifted from the plight of the average Floridian to showing a partisan base that he owns the libs. Florida deserves better than that, which is why we back Crist for governor,” the Post told readers. 

U.S. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S. February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Octavio Jones/File Photo

U.S. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S. February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Octavio Jones/File Photo
(Reuters)

South Florida’s Sun Sentinel offered its support for Crist back in July ahead of the state’s primaries, writing “The highest priority for Florida Democrats in 2022 must be to end the political career of Ron DeSantis, and Charlie Crist can do it.”

“As governor, DeSantis rules Florida with an iron hand. He dictates what teachers teach, creates barriers to voting, uses raw power to punish critics and marginalizes women, Blacks and LGBTQ people. He has divided Floridians as never before — and he’s just getting warmed up,” the Sun Sentinel warned. “Given four more years without having to face voters again, DeSantis promises an open-carry gun law in a state that has endured two horrific mass shootings at Pulse and Parkland. He could impose harsher abortion restrictions and turn school boards into culture war battlefields while using the trappings of power to run for the White House.” 

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At the time, the paper said Crist had “vastly more experience” than his primary rival Nikki Fried though admitting “He’s far from perfect, and he’s humble enough to say so.”

“Where DeSantis divides, Crist unites. He believes in civility and has a hopeful spirit, an elixir for these mean-spirited times,” the Sun Sentinel wrote. “Soaring property insurance rates and a housing affordability crisis have seriously eroded Floridians’ quality of life. But DeSantis is preoccupied with divisive distractions such as censoring classroom discussions of race and an election fraud police force rife with potential abuse. DeSantis collects enemies the way other politicians collect plaques: Disney, Dr. Anthony Fauci, children in masks, the news media, immigrants, sports teams, school boards, Special Olympics, transgender athletes.”

The Sentinel continued, “Crist can win, but it won’t be easy. DeSantis is more popular than Scott was and has a massive fund-raising advantage. Inflation and President Biden’s unpopularity threaten to drag down Democrats everywhere… Crist is the Democrats’ best hope to prevent four more years of authoritarianism from DeSantis.”

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