Republican presidential hopeful DeSantis makes first SC campaign stop in Lexington County

Posted 6/2/23

On June 2, a prime contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination made his first stop in South Carolina since announcing his candidacy, doing so in Lexington County.

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Republican presidential hopeful DeSantis makes first SC campaign stop in Lexington County


On June 2, a prime contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination made his first stop in South Carolina since announcing his candidacy, doing so in Lexington County.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who unsurprisingly announced his presidential run May 23 and is former president and current 2024 Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s closest rival in the latest GOP polls, hosted a “fireside chat” with his wife at the Grove near Gilbert. He spoke about education, his ongoing feud with Disney and other topics, while also touting his accomplishments as the chief executive of the Sunshine State.

The reception from the crowd, which appeared to exceed 200, was mostly enthusiastic, though one woman did start yelling at DeSantis, calling him an “[expletive] fascist” and then walking off making an obscene gesture towards the rest of the audience.

DeSantis told those in attendance the country needs leadership and someone in the position to exercise that leadership from day one.

“I can pledge to this as president, I'm going to be a very energetic executive. We're going to go on offense, we're going to start from day one,” he said. “And we are never going to look back. We are going to reverse Biden's disastrous economic policy.”

The governor started off emphasizing what he sees as his accomplishments with Florida, referencing the state remaining open during the COVID-19 pandemic and telling the audience that he refused to let the state descend into a fabricated dystopia that destroys people’s livelihoods and curtails their freedoms.

“We will also usher in a reckoning for the federal government's disastrous COVID-19 policies, everything from lockdowns and school closures, and then MNRA [vaccine] mandates the whole shebang,” DeSantis said. “If nobody is held accountable, they're just going to repeat this in the future.”

DeSantis touted that the state’s crime rate is at a 50-year low and that Florida recently gave all state fire and law enforcement officers a raise. Other items that he emphasized included the authorization of the death penalty for pedophiles, enacting constitutional carry legislation, and pushing to make sure fentanyl dealers end up in jail.

“He's proven himself as governor of Florida,” said Bill Hixon, a Republican state representative and the chair of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Environmental Affairs Committee, in introducing the visiting governor. “He's a man who has worked hard to get his education and a lot of great honors.”

When it came to the Disney, a key Florida tourism driver that DeSantis is currently in a lawsuit with, DeSantis said the media company believes it's appropriate to teach young children that they can change their gender. He added that many people told him to back down in the fight with the company, which he said people referred to as an 800-pound gorilla.

The lawsuit concerns Disney’s opposition to Florida legislation pushed and signed into law by DeSantis that restricts the instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation in the state’s school’s and the governor’s subsequent state takeover of a special tax district Disney had long controlled, a move the company argues is aimed at curtailing its right to free speech.

“You know, even some of these Republicans now are taking Disney’s side,” he said, “saying that somehow I was wrong, you know, to do what we did, but let me just say very clearly, we stand for the protection of our children, we will fight anybody seeking to rob them of their innocence.” 

This conversation led DeSantis into the topic of gender, as he referenced transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. The governor told the crowd that he finds it unacceptable for a swimmer to go from a men’s team to a women's team, stating that he and his wife are sensitive and want their daughters to be able to compete with fairness and integrity.

“In Florida, we protect women's sports. Part of it is to make sure the girls have the opportunity,” he said. “But part of it is just, you know, we have to be more honest in this country.”

DeSantis went on to say it’s wrong for a physician to perform sex changes on a minor, stating that Florida considers it mutilation and the physician will lose their medical license and go to jail.

Education was a major talking point for the governor, who emphasized that parents have the fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children.

DeSantis said he is getting D.E.I. – which stands for diversity, equity and inclusion – removed from school standards, sharing that it is an ideology and an agenda being shoved down the throats of students and faculty. He added that as far as he sees it, D.E.I. stands for “discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination” and has no place in public universities and schools.

“We believe the purpose of our schools is not ideological indoctrination,” he said.

DeSantis went on to say that while school systems are important, they are there to support the community not to supersede the rights to parents on what they think is appropriate, explaining that this is why he has enacted protections for parents in Florida, including curriculum transparency.

“They have a right to know what books are being used and what curriculum is being taught to their kids,” he said.

After giving his speech, he welcomed his wife, Casey DeSantis, to the stage to begin the fireside chat.

Florida’s first lady spoke about her role, mentioning that she often speaks with individuals in child welfare. Casey explained that her heart is with single mothers, foster children and those aging out of the system, adoptive service and pregnant mothers battling with substance abuse.

The couple proceeded to share the story of how they met on a driving range among other anecdotes.

Throughout the event, the governor often used what he has done in Florida as the baseline for what he hopes to do for the United States.

“ We … chose facts over fear,” he said of the state. “We chose education over indoctrination. We chose law and order over rioting and disorder. We held the line when freedom itself was hanging in the balance.”

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