Florida Politics

DeSantis passes on inaugural parade, wants to get to work as Florida’s 46th governor

Florida’s historic Capitol, with its classic dome restored to the way it looked in 1902, will serve as the backdrop for the swearing in ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019.
Florida’s historic Capitol, with its classic dome restored to the way it looked in 1902, will serve as the backdrop for the swearing in ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. Tallahassee Area CVB

Amid a ceremonial flourish and with the raising of his right hand, Ron DeSantis will become Florida’s 46th governor on Tuesday on the steps of Florida’s historic Capitol.

He’s canceled the usual parade and is addressing Legislative leaders on the fourth floor of the Capitol, where the 40-year-old incoming governor will emphasize the need to get to work immediately.

After the swearing-in, at about noon, DeSantis will make a speech that will focus on his governing priorities and on a call to unify the state, said Susie Wiles, who led his campaign and now heads his transition. On Friday, workers were busy installing a stage and seating along Monroe Street in Tallahassee to prepare for that speech.

“Floridians can expect from Gov.-elect DeSantis’ speech the same sort of policy emphasis we saw in the campaign — that is an emphasis on continuing prosperity in Florida, an enhanced choice for parents in their children’s education, and a relentless attention to improving Florida’s environment,” Wiles said.

State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, said that he’s hoping for a centrist message from DeSantis now that the campaign rhetoric has faded and he can now build strong relationships with state lawmakers.

“There’s no question that people in the state of Florida are just getting to know Governor-elect DeSantis, and I think the message he delivers both at the inaugural address and his address he’s giving the opening week of session … are all extremely important,” Lee said. “He’s got a lot of time to build a relationship with the Legislature and the people of the state of Florida, particularly people in the political center who are going to determine his political future.”

Two days of inaugural festivities begin Monday morning with a breakfast that spotlights female leaders and features Lt. Gov.-elect Jeanette Nuñez — the highest-ranking Hispanic woman elected in state history — and incoming first lady Casey DeSantis. Then, DeSantis will hold a luncheon with top lawmakers, followed by a military and law enforcement appreciation event.

Tuesday will begin with a prayer breakfast planned for 8 a.m. before the swearing-in ceremony, scheduled for 11 a.m., that will formalize DeSantis’ and Nuñez’s new positions as well as those of the newly elected Cabinet members: incoming Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner-elect Nikki Fried, the lone Democrat elected statewide.

Privately, DeSantis will be attending a dinner in Tallahassee on Monday night with his inaugural committee and big donors. He had a similar closed-door event in Miami last week.

Meanwhile, until Friday, no information had been released publicly about who has contributed to the millions raised by the inaugural committee and deposited into the Republican Party of Florida’s accounts.

The amount raised will likely exceed the actual cost of the inaugural events, allowing the party to also recoup its election spending. The additional funds will be used for “other general party needs,” said inauguration spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice in a statement.

Responding to a public records request from the Herald/Times, Beatrice released a program with the names of about 90 major sponsors Friday evening but declined to answer when asked whether donors could voluntarily opt out of those announcements.

Some of the donors that made the list include Disney, private prison company The GEO Group, the Florida Police Benevolent Association and influential Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book.

Legally, the Republican party must submit reports disclosing all donations and expenses by Jan. 10 — after the events conclude.

That’s a contrast to Gov. Rick Scott, who disclosed donations for his January 2011 inauguration starting in November 2010 on his inaugural website. Scott allowed donors to give to the Republican Party and his political committee that raised funds for his three-day inaugural celebration. In total, Scott raised about $6.4 million.

The last event will be the inaugural ball at the Donald Tucker Civic Center, where doors are scheduled to open at 7 p.m. Set to perform is an electric violinist, live band and an orchestra. That’s invitation only.