TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted his California rival Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday amid their simmering feud, with the Republican presidential candidate ribbing the Democrat for not mounting a challenge to President Joe Biden.
Speaking at a budget signing in south Florida, DeSantis offered his boldest statements against Newsom since Florida earlier this month sent two planeloads of migrants from the Texas border to Sacramento as a protest to federal immigration policies, a move that drew sharp rebukes from the Newsom administration that is pursuing possible criminal charges.
Newsom has been peppering DeSantis with criticism in the time since and Monday said he would debate the Florida governor, something DeSantis was asked about Thursday yet didn’t specifically address.
“[Newsom] has a real serious fixation on the state of Florida, I think it’s just bizarre that he does that,” DeSantis said at the event in Fort Pierce. “What I would tell him is — you know what, stop pussyfooting around. Are you going to throw your hat into the ring and challenge Joe?”
Newsom has long said he won’t run for president in 2024. But in March, he channeled $10 million to a new political organization that aims to spend money and organize in “states where freedom is most under attack,” signaling that he has his sights well outside of California.
Newsom during an interview earlier this week also attempted to pour cold water on talks of his interest in running for president as a Democratic challenger to Joe Biden.
“I’m rooting for our president, and I have great confidence [in him],” Newsom said.
DeSantis and Newsom have long been political adversaries over their differing stances on immigration, LGBTQ issues and gun safety, but their rhetoric has only gotten more heated in recent weeks as the DeSantis administration resumed its controversial migrant relocation operation, this time transporting several dozen asylum-seekers to California.
Florida initially remained silent about the two flights that touched down in Sacramento in early June until state officials eventually released a video of migrants signing documents, waving and smiling on a transport, marking the latest relocations by the DeSantis administration that last year orchestrated travel from the border to Martha’s Vineyard.
A spokesperson for the state agency that hired a contractor to organize the flights said all asylum-seekers boarded the Sacramento-bound plane voluntarily, pushing back on the Newsom administration’s claims that kidnapping charges were on the table.
Even before Florida took credit for the flights, Newsom took aim at DeSantis, calling him a “small, pathetic man.” And this week, the California governor told Fox News he was willing to partake in a debate with DeSantis moderated by Fox News host Sean Hannity on “one day’s notice with no notes.” The Democrat went further to pummel DeSantis’ chance in the upcoming Republican primary, where Newsom speculated that “Trump is going to clean his clock.”
DeSantis has defended his administration’s decision to fly migrants to California but until now hasn’t respond directly to the sharp criticism coming from Newsom. After being asked about a debate Thursday, DeSantis laid into Newsom, saying he is facing “huge problems” in California and has “overseen a massive exodus” in the state due to it being “mismanaged and ill-governed.”
“Are you going to get in and do it, or are you going to sit on the sidelines and chirp?” DeSantis said Thursday. “So why don’t you throw your hat into the ring, and then we’ll go ahead and talk about what’s happening.”
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