How Ron DeSantis became "the 1,100-pound gorilla" in Florida politics: "Cross him once, you’re dead"

A new Politico report lays out the "tremendous amount of power" the Florida governor has in his state

Published January 16, 2022 10:06AM (EST)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is considered one of the most powerful governors to ever hold office in the state of Florida, according to a new report.

Per Politico, the Republican governor exerted even more power over top state officials and lawmakers by "cracking down on election crimes, spending $8 million to transport 'unauthorized aliens' out of state and targeting 'wokeness' in schools."

"Democrats, who are in the minority, are unable to stop him," Politico reports. "And Republicans in the Florida Legislature are enthusiastically carrying out his wishes or are unwilling to buck him."

"He's become the 1,100-pound gorilla in state government," said Tom Lee, a member of the Republican Party and former president of the Senate who worked with four different governors over the course of his 18 years with the Legislature. "Gov. DeSantis is extremely popular relative to most of his predecessors. With that goes a tremendous amount of power."

Lee also noted how Republicans have enabled the governor.

"Republicans are doing very well and hanging together on a lot of these issues. If it's not broke, don't fix it," said Lee. "He's been very effective in picking issues and having his finger on the pulse on how the public reacts… When you are on the trajectory he is on right now, you are not going to have a lot of detractors in your own party."

"There are no second chances," said one former legislator, who spoke to Politico anonymously. "It's well known you can't go against him. If you cross him once, you're dead."

A number of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have also expressed concern about the imbalance of legislative power within Florida's state government. State Rep. Ben Diamond (D-St. Petersburg, Fla.) offered critical remarks about the power disparity between DeSantis and the Legislature noting that they have an obligation to "their constituents, not the governor."

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"While Gov. DeSantis is the leader of his party, there are a number of Floridians depending on their legislators to represent their best interests, not those of the governor and his potential presidential campaign," Diamond said.

One Republican lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, shared a startling assessment of the governor's legislative role. "They are not going to embarrass Ron DeSantis," the lawmaker said. "Ron DeSantis is essentially the speaker of the House, the president of the Senate, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court right now."

According to State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando, Fla.), DeSantis' popularity among "rank-and-file Republican voters" is a large part of the problem as many lawmakers within his party refuse to challenge his authority.

"In addition to his veto pen, Republican lawmakers see him as appealing to their base, so if they question him they're questioning the base which would hurt them on the campaign trail," Eskamani said. "So not only do they consent to his extreme agenda but some try to appeal to it by filing their own bills grounded in the culture wars."

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By Meaghan Ellis

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