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DeSantis' inauguration draws supporters from across state

Ron DeSantis
Lynne Sladky
/
AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves to the crowd after being sworn in to begin his second term during an inauguration ceremony outside the Old Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla.

Many of those gathered in front of the Historic Capitol for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ second inauguration traveled hundreds of miles to witness the swearing-in ceremony.

Bane Hunter, who's from Brooklyn, New York, traveled to Tallahassee for DeSantis’ inauguration.

He's considering moving to the Sunshine State, where he's also thinking about relocating his health care data firm, Hunter said. "I love New York, don’t get me wrong, it’s just taken the wrong turn."

Hunter says he likes DeSantis' approach to the economy and the governor's focus on making the state a friendlier place for police.

“The governor has a firm finger on the pulse," Hunter said. "He’s prudent in terms of the approach that he takes."

The governor’s second swearing in ceremony appeared prime for national appeal as he’s being floated as a potential 2024 presidential contender.

Hunter is an independent voter who says he would’ve voted for DeSantis if he had the chance. The governor is widely seen as a possible 2024 Republican presidential contender.

“I think if he does declare — and barring anything bizarre — I think he’s the next president."

Several charter buses brought people from across the state to watch the governor's swearing-in ceremony and inaugural address.

Retired schoolteacher Patricia Laseter, 71, of Palm Beach County was on one of those buses. It’s her first inauguration event, and she says she came to Tallahassee to pray for the state’s decision-makers.

“And we pray for the whole nation. And when we pray, we don’t look at parties, we look at what’s right, not ‘You’re Democrat. You’re a Republican,'" she said. "We look at what is right, and that’s how we stand.”

Laseter, a Republican, says she voted for DeSantis. For her, the most important issue is education. She supports the Parental Rights in Education Act – dubbed the 'Don’t Say Gay' law by its critics – which bans classroom instruction on LGBTQ topics in grades K-3, as well as upper grades if not deemed age appropriate.

Laseter says classroom instruction should focus on basic subjects, like math, science, English and history.

“Our children when they get a certain age, when they’re put up next to the other countries, other nations, will we stand a chance or will we be at the end of the line?”

Laseter says one of the things she’ll pray for is “unity.” And she defines that as agreeing to disagree. “We may have difference of opinions; you have your opinion, and I have mine," she said. "But that doesn’t mean that I have to persuade you to think like me because we have our different reasons why we have our opinions and we need to respect each other, respect each other in that way.”

Leona Stewart is from Lutz – an unincorporated community in Hillsborough County. Stewart volunteered for DeSantis’ campaign. She’s pleased with how he handled the pandemic and the economy, Stewart.

"With the masks, with the jobs, with so many things, the way he is for kids, I mean so many things," Stewart said. "Everything he says he’s going to do, he does.”

DeSantis made clear in his speech that he’ll keep pushing many of the conservative policies and positions that have helped raise his political profile into the national spotlight.

“I want him to finish up what he started here in Florida, and then I want to see him up in the big house."

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.