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FL GOP Plans to Alter State Law to Help DeSantis, Should He Run for President

GOP lawmakers have changed the law in the past when it looked like it could help their party.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 19, 2022.

Republican lawmakers in Florida appear poised to change state law in order to benefit Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) should he decide to run for president in 2024.

A law passed by the state Republican legislature in 2018 requires any elected official seeking a different political office to resign from their current one after announcing their candidacy. This kind of statute, sometimes referred to as a “resign to run” law, exists in some form in four other states.

DeSantis, who just won reelection last month, will see his current term in office expire in 2027.

GOP leaders in both houses of the state legislature want to ensure that DeSantis isn’t burdened with having to decide between running for president or keeping his current gubernatorial position. Republican state Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R) described the idea to reexamine the law — and possibly pass legislation to remove the resignation requirement — as a “good idea.”

State House Speaker Paul Renner (R) agreed. “Candidly, we have gone back and forth [on the law] based on the circumstances of the moment,” he said. “In this case, it’s an honor for someone from Florida to even consider running for President.”

The current law is ambiguous enough that it might allow DeSantis to run “without resigning under current law,” Renner said. But just to be sure, the state legislature should “correct” the law to ensure that the governor doesn’t break it if he decides to pursue the presidency in 2024, he added.

Notably, both Passidomo and Renner voted in favor of the 2018 bill that tightened restrictions.

Republicans in the state have tweaked the law before for their party’s benefit, making it easier for a Florida governor to decide to pursue a higher office if they wanted to. In 2007, the law was amended when then-Gov. Charlie Crist, who was a Republican at the time, was being considered by the late Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) to be his running mate in the 2008 presidential election. Crist would have had to resign to pursue that office had the law not been changed.

The 2018 law tightened restrictions yet again, but the restrictions didn’t go into effect until later, allowing then-Gov. Rick Scott (R) to run for Senate without repercussions.

It’s unclear if a DeSantis presidential run would be successful — if he chooses to run, he’d have to defeat former President Donald Trump in the primaries, a process that could bring many of DeSantis’s far right viewpoints to the forefront and potentially alienate the general American electorate.

As it stands right now, many Americans aren’t familiar enough with DeSantis to form an opinion. About 38 percent of voters nationwide have a favorable view of the Florida governor, according to a recent Economist/YouGov poll, while 35 percent view him unfavorably. Another 26 percent are unsure how they feel about him, a percentage that represents more than one in four voters.

A DeSantis presidency would be disastrous for the country overall, author Laren Rankin said in an op-ed for Truthout last month.

“DeSantis is no ‘moderate,'” Rankin pointed out. “He is brash, bigoted, and wields the rhetoric of populism as a cudgel to reify white, patriarchal, heteronormative power. He may be an alternative to Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, but he is alternative in name only.”

Added Rankin:

There is nothing moderate about arresting marginalized people for voting, or endangering the lives of pregnant people, trans youth, Black and Brown people. If DeSantis is what passes for moderate today in the U.S., then moderate is just another word for oppression, masking itself as reasonable political discourse.

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