DeSantis will tour Florida to tout conservative school board candidates
First he issued endorsements.
Then Gov. Ron DeSantis began spending his own campaign money to help preferred down ballot candidates.
Now DeSantis is going even further with a statewide "education tour" in advance of the Aug. 23 primary to tout candidates he endorsed in school board races. The tour will go through Sarasota, Ormond Beach, Jacksonville and Miami.
Combined, DeSantis' actions are much further than past Florida governors have gone to put their imprint on local politics.
School board races are technically nonpartisan, but DeSantis is weighing in to try and elect conservatives. The races often are decided in the primary.
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DeSantis is proving he is all in on trying to reshape Florida's education system, which has been a major focus of his time in office. He signed controversial bills that limit how race, gender and sexual orientation are discussed in schools.
Some school districts have resisted DeSantis' education agenda, with the governor battling local school boards over policies such as mask mandates. Now he wants to install school board candidates who share his views.
The governor endorsed 30 candidates for school board seats around Florida, donating $1,000 from his political committee to many of the candidates and spending his campaign money on mailers supporting them. Now DeSantis will campaign for many of the candidates in person in advance of the primary.
The Republican Party of Sarasota County sent out an email Friday with an invitation to a 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. event on Aug. 21 at Sarasota's Sahib Shrine Event Center. The invitation states that the event is part of the "DeSantis Education Agenda Tour."
The Volusia County GOP also shared an invitation Friday for a "DeSantis Education Agenda Tour" rally on Aug. 21 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at a Harley Davidson dealer in Ormond Beach.
DeSantis campaign sent out an email Monday saying there also will be tour stops in Duval and Miami-Dade counties.
"These pro-parent, pro-student local school board candidates are committed to the DeSantis Education Agenda," DeSantis said in a press release about the tour. "Parental rights, curriculum transparency, and classrooms free of woke ideology are all on the ballot this election, and it starts with school board elections. Florida’s school boards need members who will defend our students and stand up for parental rights and will ensure Florida’s children are protected from woke ideology in their classrooms. I am proud to stand by each of them.”
The governor has endorsed school board candidates in Sarasota, Duval, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Manatee, Lee, Alachua, Pasco, Polk, Flagler, Indian River, Volusia, Martin, Brevard, Putnam, Hendry and Monroe counties.
"Governor DeSantis is rallying support for the DeSantis Education Agenda — the students first, parents’ rights plan for Florida — which all our local candidates support," the Sarasota GOP said in an email announcing the governor's rally.
DeSantis has endorsed three conservative Sarasota County School Board candidates in a contest that has become increasingly acrimonious and exemplifies the charged politics around education nationwide.
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Conservatives have targeted school district's COVID-19 policies, and how schools approach race and gender identity issues, and made them a central aspect of the GOP's pitch in recent years. Emotionally-charged school board meetings have spilled over into emotionally-charged campaigns for school board seats.
In Sarasota County, trucks are driving around with billboards calling a candidate who used to work for Planned Parenthood a "baby killer." Postcards went out calling three candidates endorsed by the local Democratic Party "BLM... ANTIFA RIOTERS" who "WANT GROOMING AND PORNOGRAPHY IN OUR SCHOOLS."
Follow Herald-Tribune Political Editor Zac Anderson on Twitter at @zacjanderson. He can be reached at email@example.com