Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis ripped California Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom during a speech Sunday in the Golden State, saying Californians are fleeing the state in droves to live in Florida where he said they can live freely.
'I knew you guys got a lot of problems out here, but your governor is very concerned about what we're doing in Florida, so I figured I had to come by,' DeSantis joked at the start of his speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
DeSantis said Reagan 'understood the vital role that government had to play' and how it could be a 'negative force if not applied properly,' and he governed Florida with that same understanding throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
'And I think if you look over the last four or five years, and you look at the performances of individual states, and you compare Florida versus California, New York, Illinois, some of those other states, we have had a great experiment, a great test in governing philosophies,' he said. 'Because, of course, you know, we approach things much differently in Florida than you guys have out here, much differently in Florida than they've done in New York and in Illinois.'
'And if you look over the last four years, we've witnessed a great American exodus from states governed by leftist politicians imposing leftist ideology and delivering poor results, and you've seen massive gains in states like Florida, who are governing according to the tried and true principles that President Reagan held dear,' he continued. 'From the beginning of this state's history, all the way until the last four or five years, people beat a path to California. You didn't beat a path away from California. And yet now, you see the state hemorrhaging population.'
DeSantis said Florida became a beacon of freedom when states like California became a 'biomedical security state' due to outside pressure based on political ideology instead of data.
'And I can tell you, we had families move from the Pacific coast just for the fact that we had schools open in Florida, when you didn't have them open in many other states,' he said. 'We did things like ban vaccine passports in the state of Florida. States said, ‘You want to go stay in a hotel, go to a restaurant, you got to cough up your vax papers on these mRNA shots.’ And we said that's none of their business. Everyone has a right to participate in society. That's a personal choice that you make whether to take that or not, and we're not going to let you be excluded.'
'Now, what ended up happening because we did that, one of the things that ended up happening was in 2021, Florida set a record for domestic tourism,' he said. 'If you compare the change in tourism in California from 2019 to 2021, California tourism declined by 22%.'
DeSantis spoke to a crowd of more than 1,300 attendees at the Reagan library, DeSantis’ team told Fox News Digital.
Simi Valley police said vandals targeted the library overnight ahead of the governor's visit with graffiti reading, 'Ron DeFascist,' KTLA reported. Library employees were reportedly able to clean up the paint before the governor's visit.
Sunday's event was to kick off DeSantis' new book, 'The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival,' which released Tuesday. The governor has not officially announced a 2024 presidential run but is widely considered a likely candidate.
DeSantis revealed his proposal to 'Make America Florida' in his book, saying it will require 'successfully combating a lot of powerful, elite institutions' in the pursuit of freedom.
The book detailed DeSantis’ approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, which often contradicted guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was the frequent target of liberal backlash. The governor argued in the book that the attacks were a 'price worth paying' for exercising leadership.
'A governor who leads by aggressively pursuing policies that defy the leftist ideology of the nation’s elites will face fire — not only by the legacy media but also from activist groups, Big Tech, and corporate America,' he wrote. 'When I took strong stands against the prevailing narrative on draconian coronavirus policies, I may have been vilified by the usual suspects, but I was able to save the livelihoods of millions of people throughout Florida.'