By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Responding to accusations made by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in a campaign ad criticizing him, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Newsom treated Californians “like peasants” during nearly two years of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Gov. DeSantis made the remarks Friday at an event in Cape Coral, Florida, announcing the state’s plan to reduce prescription drug costs for Floridians.
A reporter asked Gov. DeSantis what he thought about Gov. Newsom claiming Florida wasn’t free. The Florida governor guffawed and the audience laughed.
“Well, look, everyone wants to talk about me and Florida. I’m just sitting here little ‘ol me doing my job,” he said smiling.
Both Gov. DeSantis and Gov. Newsom are running for reelection for governor in their respective states. But instead of targeting his Republican opponent in California, Gov. Newsom’s first reelection campaign ad targeted Gov. DeSantis and Florida’s former governor and junior U.S. Sen. Rick Scott.
Gov. Newsom, after making several accusations about Florida not being free, invited Floridians to move to “the free state of California.”
Gov. DeSantis said, “I was born and raised in this state. And until the last few years, I rarely if ever saw a California license plate in the state of Florida. You now see a lot of ‘em. I can tell you if you go to California, you ain’t seeing very many Florida license plates.
“As he was locking down his citizens,” Gov. DeSantis said of Gov. Newsom, “he would then go and have these extravagant dinners at the French Laundry to basically rub his citizens’ noses in the fact that he was treating them like peasants.
“In Florida, we weren’t locking them down, we were lifting our people up.”
Gov. Newsom’s campaign didn’t return requests for comment.
“Gov. Gavin Newsom is clearly positioning himself for the 2024 presidential election, not his 2022 reelection campaign in California,” Chuck DeVore, a former state legislator in California, who’s now the Chief National Initiatives Officer at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, told The Center Square. “This is why he’s going after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, though his attack is laughable. According to Census data, California has lost a net of around 100,000 residents to other states, with the largest share moving to Texas – Florida too.”
Mr. Devore has written extensively about why he and others left California and has opined on the movement, “Don’t California My Texas,” referring to those who don’t want California policies transforming Texas. A similar sentiment is being expressed in Florida.
“Texans are understandably concerned, but other than a segment of high-tech employees, polls suggest the majority of Californians moving to Texas are conservative,” Mr. DeVore said. “‘Don’t California my Texas’ is really more of a warning to state and local elected officials not to copy California’s high-tax, heavy regulatory burden policies.”
Florida continues to rival Texas as a top destination for businesses and residents exiting higher-tax states. Many of those exiting California cite high taxes and expansive restrictions as their reasons for leaving.
California lost more residents to migration in recorded U.S. history during Gov. Newsom’s first term. California also lost a congressional seat. By contrast, Florida gained a congressional seat and surpassed New York to become the third-most populous state.
Gov DeSantis has touted Florida as the freest state in the U.S., signing a state budget with record tax breaks and fighting against the Biden administration over vaccine mandates, illegal immigration and other policies.
Florida also just recorded its highest surplus in state history of $21.8 billion.