With a tropical storm intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida’s largest city reeling from a racially motivated attack that left three black people dead, Gov. Ron DeSantis abandoned the campaign trail Sunday and returned to his state to weather the crisis. .
DeSantis spoke Sunday afternoon from the state’s emergency operations center in Tallahassee to prepare Florida’s Gulf Coast for Tropical Storm Idalia, which could make landfall as a hurricane on Wednesday.
Before speaking about the storm, DeSantis read a statement about the attack at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville. The white gunman, whom DeSantis called “deranged scum,” used racial slurs, left a racist rant and drew swastikas on his firearm, authorities said.
“Perpetrating violence of this type is unacceptable,” DeSantis said. “And attacking people because of their race has no place in the state of Florida.”
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This Saturday’s tragedy and the looming possibility of devastation from another storm will test how DeSantis balances his official duties with his political ambitions. The Republican has spent much of the past three months on the road as he seeks to win the Republican nomination over a wide field of contenders, including former President Donald Trump, whose own response to the disasters became fodder for Democrats by the time of the elections. elections.
DeSantis’ campaign did not immediately provide an update on his upcoming political journey, but he told reporters Sunday that he was “locked in this” storm and “we’re going to get the job done.” DeSantis canceled a town hall scheduled for Monday morning in South Carolina, as well as his keynote address at South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan’s 12th annual Faith & Freedom BBQ. His wife, Casey, will attend in his place, campaign press secretary Bryan Griffin said in a statement on X.
When asked where he planned to be this week, DeSantis replied: “I’m here. I’m here.”
DeSantis provided updates on Idalia’s trajectory as she gained traction between Cuba and Mexico. The storm has maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center, and could become a hurricane as early as Tuesday afternoon. DeSantis warned that the Gulf of Mexico, experiencing record sea surface temperatures, could quickly make this storm more powerful.
“Please heed the warnings from your local officials (and) keep watching the news,” he said.
The comments came during one of DeSantis’s first public appearances in his home state since he entered the presidential race in May. He returned to Florida from Iowa, where he spent the weekend after the first Republican presidential primary debate, touring the Hawkeye state for the fifth time in the last seven weeks. On Saturday night, the governor’s office shared a video of Iowa’s DeSantis condemning the violence as “totally unacceptable” and calling the shooter a “coward” for taking his own life.
So far, DeSantis has not felt the need to return to Florida to publicly address other emergencies his administration has faced this summer, including outbreaks of leprosy and malaria, a deadly wave of flesh-eating bacteria, record temperatures off the Florida coast that have threatened delicate coastal ecosystems and a shaky property insurance market.
Live trajectory of Idalia: where she is in real time and where she is going
DeSantis’s return to Florida to manage two high-profile crises comes as he has intensified his criticism of President Joe Biden’s response to the Maui wildfires. Republicans have taken advantage of a five-day period of silence from when Biden first commented on the deadly fires until the next time he spoke publicly about the devastation there.
“Biden was on the beach while those people were suffering. They asked him about it and he said that he did not comment. Are you kidding me?” DeSantis said at Wednesday’s Republican debate in Milwaukee. “As someone who has handled disasters in Florida, you have to be activated. You have to be there. You have to be there. You have to help people. they’re doing this.”
However, DeSantis also faced criticism at home for his own handling of the events leading up to the challenges he now faces upon arriving in Florida.
Democrats have accused DeSantis of not speaking loudly enough against the widespread demonstrations of neonaz