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Candidates rally Democrats with anti-Ron DeSantis speeches – South Florida Sun-Sentinel – South Florida Sun Sentinel

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Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried and Annette Taddeo came together over the weekend, united in their diagnosis of the biggest problem they see plaguing Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Healing, they said, requires his removal from office in the November election.
During late-night speeches to elected officials, activists and political donors gathered for the Broward Democratic Party’s annual Obama Roosevelt Legacy Gala on Saturday, they lambasted the Republican governor for what they said are policies that will hurt female, Black and LGBTQ Floridians.
So intense is the Democratic dislike for DeSantis, that he displaced the Democrats’ previous top villain, former President Donald Trump, who was mentioned far less frequently than the current Florida governor.
“After almost 25 straight years of Republican governors, we finally have found the worst of them all,” said Fried, the state agriculture commissioner.
Trump wasn’t completely off of the Democrats’ minds. Crist, a Democratic congressman from St. Petersburg, offered this assessment of DeSantis: “He’s as arrogant as Trump. He is mini-Trump. DeSantis is a disaster, let’s face it. I mean if you’re LGBTQ, you get no respect from him. If you’re a woman you get no respect from him. You’re African American, you get no respect from him.”
It’s so bad, Crist said, that it makes him think that “every night [DeSantis] goes to bed, he’s got to think about what group am I going to screw tomorrow? Seriously. It’s a lot of hate. It is. It really is. And it’s not right, and it ain’t Florida.”
Crist, Fried and Taddeo differed on style, but the main difference was the solution to what they identified as the DeSantis problem. They’re all running for the Democratic nomination to run for governor, and each depicted themselves as the party’s best hope to deprive him of a second term.
Fried and Taddeo both highlighted the annual legislative session, which wrapped up most of its work for the year on Friday. The Legislature, controlled by Republicans, couldn’t finish all its work on time, and lawmakers are set to return to Tallahassee on Monday.
“The pain of the last 60 days, the cruelty that has been inflicted upon our state is unimaginable,” Fried said.
Fried’s narrow victory in the in the race for state agriculture commissioner in 2018 made her the only statewide elected Democrat in Florida, and she said her time in office has given her insight in how to challenge DeSantis.
“I go into a room every day with him and battle him. Not only do I throw punches, but I land him,” Fried said. “There is nobody in the state of Florida who makes him twitch as much as I do. The second that I open my mouth in Cabinet meetings you see this twitch that he gets. I wear that as a badge of honor.”
Taddeo, a state senator from Miami-Dade County, said the problem is grave. “Florida has a red tide problem, and not just in our water,” Taddeo said. “But also in Tallahassee. The Tallahassee red tide kills democracy, suppress voters’ rights, and the laws they passed just this session leaves a really bad smell as well.”
Legislation on contentious social issues supported by the governor included banning almost all abortions in Florida after the 15th week of pregnancy (abortion is currently legal until the 24th week), limiting the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools — labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics — and restricting discussion of race and racism in schools and employee training programs.
Those issues united and enraged the candidates for governor, and the other Democrats at the event, who described what they saw as attacks on women, the Black community and the LGBTQ community by DeSantis and the Republican-controlled state Legislature.
The stage at the Democratic Party gala had six American flags — plus a rainbow LGBTQ flag and a blue, pink and white transgender flag. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Broward/Miami-Dade county Democrat, led the audience in chanting ‘Let’s say gay.’”
U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a Broward/Palm Beach County Democrat and the first Haitian American Democrat elected to Congress, said DeSantis is trying to “prevent us from empathizing with people in the #LGBT community…. “It sounds so similar to how they dehumanized us as Black people.”
“The governor is focused on doing things that really don’t change people’s lives, except crate more hate and division against gay people, against women, against Latinos, against everybody. You know I think the only people he likes are middle aged or older white guys,” Crist said.
Plenty of Floridians feel differently. DeSantis’ press secretary retweeted a supporter’s contrary view on Saturday night. “Actually, Florida loves our Governor! #KeepFloridaFree,” the tweet said. Public opinion polling suggests DeSantis is likely to win re-election, which may propel him to a widely expected candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. Many political analysts and Democratic insiders see DeSantis as tough to beat.
“People are saying Democrats can’t win, that DeSantis is unbeatable. But they are wrong. That narrative is wrong,” Taddeo said.
“Democracy is on the line, decency is on the line, the future of our country, the future of the world is resting on what we as Democrats do this November,” Fried said.
Ken Evans, the Democratic state committeeman for Broward, said the fundraising event event took in about $190,000 before expenses, the sold-out 400 dinner seats and sponsorships.
County Democratic Chairman Rick Hoye said the funds would be used for the party’s get out the vote efforts this year. Broward is the state’s Democratic stronghold. Though it can’t propel its parties statewide candidates to victory on its own, without a strong Democratic showing in the county, the party’s statewide candidates have no chance to win.
“Bigotry, the Big Lie, insurrection, they are the enemies of democracies. Their purveyors are hard at work. And they will not stop until we stop them,” Hoye said. The Big Lie is the label Democrats have given to the unsubstantiated claims that Trump didn’t really lose the 2020 election.
Several participants, including keynote speaker Cedrick Richmond, a former Louisiana congressman and current White House director of public engagement, praised Biden.
Wasserman Schultz credited Biden and the Democratic Congress for bringing U.S. out of Trump’s “COVID ditch” and restoring the nation’s economy from its pandemic low.
And she said, Biden is doing a far better job than Trump would have in dealing with the invasion of Ukraine ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Thankfully we have an American president who stands up to Putin. Not one who licks his boots like the last one,” she said.
Anthony Man can be reached at aman@sunsentinel.com or on Twitter @browardpolitics

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