DeSantis’ presidential ambitions stoke fear in young voters

Ron DeSantis is rumored to be a presidential candidate in 2024. Photo courtesy: CNN

Florida residents and legislators were politically engaged Tuesday with the beginning of the 2023 legislative session and Governor Ron DeSantis’ State of the State address. DeSantis described the state as “No. 1” in various aspects such as tourism, public education and economic growth.

The conservative former congressman went on to explain the goals of the Florida Legislature this year, including preventing public schools from experiencing political indoctrination. He referenced an attendee, Chloe Cole, who now advocates against gender affirming surgeries for children after undergoing a double mastectomy at the age of 16.

He also plans to allow concealed carry of firearms without a permit and to prevent businesses backed by China’s Communist Party from operating in Florida.

DeSantis’ recent movements in his political career have put him on the radar as a potential presidential candidate for the Republican Party. According to The New York Times, his advisers have confirmed that he won’t declare his run until the end of the legislative session on May 5.

Many Florida residents fear his campaign as he’s recently pumped up his political pursuits in state lawmaking. The infamous “Don’t Say Gay” Bill signed into law last year forbade instruction on sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade and gathered resistance from local organizations, LGBTQ+ advocates and the White House.

“The guy is just crazy,” Louis Pouilias said, a longtime resident in South Florida. “He clearly doesn’t care about the people within this state.”

His recent attack on higher education with House Bill 999 would prevent state universities from including diversity, equity and inclusion in their efforts as well as give the state’s Board of Governors more control and power over postsecondary education.

Florida A&M University students are among his biggest critics as many attended protests against his anti-wokeness campaign strengthened by his “Stop W.O.K.E.” Act. This legislation limits how schools and businesses can discuss race and gender.

Talajah Lewis, a Florida native and resident of Fort Lauderdale, spoke to how DeSantis will fare compared to past presidential candidates.

“DeSantis is literally just Trump that’s easier to listen to. He will get a lot of Republican voters, because he’s much easier to digest,” Lewis said. “I just hope that people my age will stop him from getting in office by going to vote,” she added.

During Black History Month, hundreds gathered on a march to the Florida Capitol led by Al Sharpton in protest of the halt of an Advanced Placement course in African American history in the state’s public schools. This act was one of many attempts to bring attention to DeSantis’ blatant disregard for minority groups.

Felicia Leamard, a third-year interdisciplinary studies major at FAMU from Key West, said that although she doesn’t get too involved with politics, she’s hyper aware of the governor’s approach to legislation.

“He’s problematic as far as I know and I don’t want him as president,” Leamard said. “As someone that doesn’t seek out politics, his name is always mentioned negatively when I see it.”

After a surprising youth turnout in the midterm elections, it’s safe to say that the youth are paying close attention. According to Rock The Vote, Millennials and Gen-Z will make up 44% of voters in 2024, which reveals the power that young people will have in the future political field.

DeSantis will travel to Ohio later this month as a featured speaker for the Butler County’s GOP fundraising dinner. This is another stop in his strategic journey to key primary states as he hints at a presidential run.

Florida voters will have the ability to determine if the state remains “No. 1” while the legislative session is underway and the governor continues to make headlines.