Ron DeSantis is a bully and a braggart. Under his autocratic rule, the people of Florida are “free” to do what he tells them to do. The Miami Herald endorsed his opponent Charlie Crist.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Florida is a place of meanness. It’s a place where dissent is muzzled, where personal rights triumph over the greater good, where winning is more important than unity — especially if that victory moves him closer to a White House run.

That’s not the Florida we had four years ago. And it’s not a Florida that voters should tolerate for the next four years. There’s a far better choice in the Nov. 8 election: Democrat Charlie Crist.

DeSantis’ first term in office has been defined by stunt after stunt and made-for-Fox-News grandstanding as he claims successive wins in the culture wars created by the politics of division that he exploits for his own gain. Meanwhile, real crises such as the lack of affordable housing and property insurance are barely addressed.

There was the recent taxpayer-funded flight of Venezuelan asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. The migrants reportedly were duped into believing they would get jobs, but instead ended up on the Massachusetts vacation island, pawns in DeSantis’ thirst for attention. His willingness to upend the lives of vulnerable people for self-aggrandizing publicity appears to have also been behind his boastful announcement in August of the arrest of 20 people, ex-offenders he said voted illegally. However, those arrested have told the Herald that their county election supervisor’s office said they could cast ballots after Floridians approved the restoration of voting rights for some ex-felons.

DeSantis’ own administration was responsible for flagging ineligible voters, but didn’t. Friday, a Miami circuit court judge threw out a criminal case against one of the people DeSantis accused of committing election fraud in the 2020 election.

There’s DeSantis’ crusade to protect white Floridians from alleged reverse racism at the hands of so-called “woke” teachers and workplace diversity trainers. His targeting of drag queens and a Miami bar because a parent brought their child to a popular drag brunch. His use of “parental rights” to create a new culture war surrounding the teaching of LGBTQ+ issues at schools. His exploitation of the COVID pandemic and masking of children as political tools to proclaim Florida as the “free” state — as long as your version of freedom agrees with his.


Still, we can’t deny that DeSantis is a highly popular governor within the state and beyond, depending on one’s political leaning. He has loyal supporters; and he is a Trump-like figure without the buffoonery; and he can deftly play both sides against the middle.

While denigrating teachers at traditional public schools, for instance, the governor guaranteed $500 million to raise the minimum teacher salary and provide raises for veteran teachers and other instructional personnel; secured the highest-ever per-pupil spending totals at $7,793 per student; replaced standardized tests in schools; invested more than $124 million for Florida’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities; and gave parents an outsize voice in their children’s education — just one skirmish in his culture wars.

Similarly, he pushed to reopen the state during the COVID-19 pandemic sooner than many others and less safely. His reelection ads tie Florida’s fast economic rebound to his actions to reopen the state early. But, again, he used the pandemic as a political opportunity, pushing unproven treatment, instead of vaccines, to counter the omicron variant; initially refusing to release the names of facilities where long-term-care residents and staff have been exposed; overseeing a health department accused of undercounting the number of dead; downplaying vaccines while areas with his supporters got theirs first; handcuffing local officials from imposing stringent measures to fight the pandemic. And let’s not get into his threats against school districts that wanted to order mask mandates.

More than 80,000 Floridians have died of COVID, something DeSantis has rarely, if ever, acknowledged.

DeSantis, 44, is governor, yes, but with a broad streak of autocrat. He flaunts Florida’s “freedom,” but it’s granted only to a special few. He wants to control every aspect of how Florida functions. He targets people and communities who disagree with him. He pits Floridians against each other to reap political power. There’s no place for dissent — or even normal discussion — in the DeSantis administration, as demonstrated by his attacks against media to deflect potential governmental blame — even as Hurricane Ian’s victims were still being counted. He is an avenging governor, punishing Disney for supporting LGBTQ+ rights. The compliant Republican Legislature aids and abets him, cowed into compliance by his brutal style of politics.


Crist, 66, is seasoned, smart and reasonable. He treats people with courtesy, in contrast to DeSantis, who publicly snapped at high school students for wearing masks and accuse them of engaging in “COVID theater.”

Crist has detailed plans on how to tackle the affordable-housing crisis, one of the most important quality-of-life issues in the state. He’s a consensus builder, something we have missed since DeSantis took office, and he knows intimately how government works. There certainly are knocks against Crist. He’s been criticized as a career politician and political chameleon. And it’s true that he’s a former Republican governor-turned-independent-turned-Democratic congressman who is now running for governor again.

But he says the Republican Party left him, not the other way around, a realization shared by many traditional Republicans. But more than anything, Crist is what we need to return Florida to normalcy and common decency. He would stop the culture wars over made-up issues that have no bearing on Floridians’ everyday lives and get on with the business of governing.

And no matter how much Republicans try to paint Crist as a leftist or socialist, he’s not. Instead, he’s that rarely seen breed in the Florida politics of today: a moderate. As a Republican governor, he displayed independence when he vetoed a bill that would have forced women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion. And though he came under attack earlier this year from his Democratic primary opponent, Nikki Fried for his word-parsing when it comes to abortion rights, he has made it clear he will protect a woman’s right to choose by signing an executive order on his first day in office.


DeSantis, on the other hand, has vowed to “expand pro-life protections” after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Republicans control the Legislature, and it’s very likely they will further restrict the 15-week abortion ban they passed this year. Make no mistake: Reproductive rights are at stake in this year’s gubernatorial election.

DeSantis has done little, if anything, to address the exorbitant costs of buying and renting a home. Imagine if the governor dedicated only a fraction of the attention he’s devoted to bashing “critical race theory” to affordable housing. He has recommended lawmakers fully fund the state’s affordable-housing trust fund over the years. But he has never pushed his Republican allies in the Legislature to come up with comprehensive solutions to the issue — and actually signed a bill that enshrines into law lawmakers’ habit of raiding that trust fund for other purposes. Crist would expand down-payment assistance programs and appoint a “housing czar” to help local governments meet housing-affordability goals. In July, he told the Editorial Board that he wants a “Wall Street crackdown” on companies that “are buying huge tracts of land to flip and make a quick profit,” raising costs for working and middle-class families. Taking on those big companies will be a challenge with a GOP-controlled Legislature. As governor, Crist approved cuts to the Sadowski housing trust fund, but said that was necessary during the Great Recession. He now says he wants to fully fund it and would work to repeal the bill DeSantis signed.

We give DeSantis credit for spearheading the recovery in Southwest Florida from the ravages of Hurricane Ian with a billion-dollar price tag. He’s put on his boots — yes, those white ones — and launched a fast-moving recovery plan. For example, it only took the state a few weeks to repair a crucial bridge into Sanibel, not the months predicted. That’s what we would expect from any state’s executive leader. However, Crist has rightly criticized DeSantis for allowing the state’s other crisis, property insurance, to balloon. Hurricane Ian threatens to turn that crisis into a catastrophe. Under DeSantis’ leadership, the Legislature passed Band-Aid reforms during a hasty, three-day special legislative session. Since then, you hardly hear the governor talk about the issue, despite homeowners losing coverage or facing jaw-dropping premium hikes.

But there’s plenty of talk about those deviant drag queens. Crist has a seven-point plan to fix the state’s property insurance system. He would require, for example, that large companies that provide car insurance also provide homeowners. That would address the cherry-picking that insurers do — leaving many Floridians out in the cold. It’s a start, and we’d like to learn more.


Crist’s political resume is hard to beat. He served in the Florida Senate, then as the state’s education commissioner, attorney general and Republican governor for one term — before winning the St. Petersburg congressional seat he has held since 2017. He has also lost elections: in 2010, to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and, in 2014, when he came within one point of ousting then-Gov. Rick Scott. All of that experience gives him a deep understanding of Florida and how the Legislature works.

▪ On issues of law and order, Crist wants the state to allow felons who have completed their sentences to vote — even while continuing to pay fines or restitution — as Florida’s Amendment 4 was supposed to do, before Republican lawmakers undercut it. Floridians voted to restore the voting rights of former felons, and they deserve a governor who will honor that intent. Though Crist was nicknamed “Chain Gang Charlie” in the 1990s for championing roadside prison work crews in Florida, when he became governor, he restored voting rights to 155,000 convicted felons, streamlining the clemency process and rejecting a policy rooted in the Jim Crow era — a stand-out accomplishment for civil rights, despite former Gov. Rick Scott’s subsequent decision to revoke the measure.

Crist would also seek to expunge marijuana possession charges and sentences, a measure that would fall in line with President Biden’s pardon this month of people convicted of marijuana possession charges under federal law. He supports legalizing recreational marijuana, saying any taxes on it could go toward raises for veteran teachers. ▪ On gun control, Crist said he supports a supports a ban on military-style rifles, saying they “shouldn’t be on the streets of America.” South Florida suffered through the Parkland school shooting. There is no question that we agree.

▪ Climate change and environmental issues are becoming an increasingly urgent in Florida, with Hurricane Ian as just the most recent example. Crist is the right choice to fight for environmental causes, even when facing pressure from business interests — and that’s based on his record. As governor, he hosted a climate change summit in Miami all the way back in 2007 — early days for that topic. He also clashed with Florida Power & Light on rate increases. He wants utility companies to have less control over the state agency that oversees them by allowing voters to decide whether to retain members of the the Public Service Commission, which has been notorious for going along with FPL’s requests. Crist came close to finalizing a historic $1.75 billion Everglades land deal to help restore the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. Though most of the purchase fell through when the Great Recession hit, Crist understands that preserving Florida’s environment is critical, ultimately, a pro-business stance. Crist said he will work to attract technology and other clean industries to Florida, which would help reduce the state’s economic reliance on tourism. Crist is all-in on solar power, saying the state should lead the way. DeSantis, too, has been an ally of the Everglades and supports building a reservoir to clean and send more water south. Soon after taking office, he created an algae-bloom task force and appointed a chief resilience officer. He spearheaded the creation of a state program that helps communities pay for projects that mitigate the impacts of sea-level rise. He signed the “Clean Waterways Act” to minimize the impact of known sources of nutrient pollution. And for Miami-Dade, he announced a $20 million investment into the protection and preservation of Biscayne Bay, a joint funding initiative between the state for important infrastructure updates and new technology to help predict and prevent sanitary sewer overflows into the bay. But climate change and the state’s reliance on fossil fuels aren’t topics you hear the governor discuss, or even acknowledge.

▪ On voting rights, Crist would push to reverse the limits on mail-in ballots imposed by the Legislature under DeSantis. He also wants to declare Election Day a state holiday, to allow more people to vote, and he would push the Legislature to move primaries from the slow middle of the summer — August — to the spring, when more voters are in the state. Those are common-sense changes that would encourage people to vote. Except for some high spots, DeSantis has deeply damaged our state in four years. Instead of bringing us together so that, united, we can confront and solve our biggest challenges, he has pushed us apart. Instead of working for the betterment of everyone, he has worked only for the betterment of himself and his drive for higher office. Instead of encouraging us to reach for our better selves, he has sown suspicion and scorn. He has marginalized, penalized and ostracized entire groups of people — his constituents — though he spurns them relentlessly. Four more years of this, and what will be left of civil society in Florida? We’ll become unrecognizable. Charlie Crist is the best choice. He’ll work to unite us — Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. He’s what Florida needs — now.

The Miami Herald Editorial Board recommends CHARLIE CRIST for Florida governor.

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