McKee hits, GOP candidate Kalus deflects punch on her most admired pol, Ron DeSantis

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

PROVIDENCE – In one of the most revealing moments at a gubernatorial forum in May, the candidates were asked which elected official, living or dead, they most admire.

On the Democratic side, Gov. Dan McKee said Barack Obama. Former CVS executive Helena Foulkes said FDR. Former Secretary of State Matt Brown said the late civil rights icon John Lewis. Progressive advocate Luis-Daniel Munoz said Bobby Kennedy and current Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea named Civil War-era Gen. Joshua Chamberlain.

Republican Ashley Kalus named Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Has that changed? In light of recent news out of Florida, Democratic Gov. Dan McKee's campaign is asking: to what extent do DeSantis' actions in Florida represent Kalus' plans for Rhode Island?

"It's alarming that Ashley Kalus holds up the most extreme and divisive Governor in America as her model for leadership," McKee campaign manager Brexton Isaacs said Wednesday.

"Ron DeSantis has championed exteme anti-LGBTQ policies, wants to ban abortions, and undo progress on gun safety,'' said Isaacs, suggesting Kalus' admiration for DeSantis signals her "values and priorities are out of touch with Rhode Island."

He sent links to national news headlines such as this:

"DeSantis vows Florida will allow people to carry firearms without permits 'before I am done as governor'" and this: "Florida's governor signs controversial law opponents dubbed 'Don't Say Gay'."

"When she was shopping around for a state to run for office in, clearly Ashley Kalus picked wrong," Isaacs said.

What does Kalus – a relative newcomer to Rhode Island – say?

Kalus did not respond to questions Wednesday about why she chose DeSantis as most-admired; how she feels about some of his recent moves in Florida and whether she would like to replicate them in Rhode Island.

Her spokesman Matthew Hanrahan instead sent this response to the statement by the McKee campaign:

“Dan McKee should be worried about getting out of his primary. For the last two years, he has crushed small businesses, handed out $3,000 bonuses, and is now bailing out the developer of the Superman building to the tune of $21 million of taxpayer dollars.

"All while being under federal investigation," he said in reference to the state and federal inquiries that came to light last winter, into an education consulting contract the McKee administration awarded last year to the politically-connected ILO Group.

"It's time for a change," Hanrahan said.

Asked where Kalus stands on recent DeSantis' actions, Hanrahan said: "We won’t be answering copy and paste [opposition] dumps from other campaigns. That’s our quote."

(For the record, Kalus has also declined to say if she would support DeSantis over Donald Trump if they both run for president in 2024.)

DeSantis made news most recently by signing legislation mandating public colleges and universities survey students and faculty annually about their beliefs, in a stated effort to promote intellectual diversity on campuses.

“We do not want them as basically hotbeds for stale ideology,” he said.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the DeSantis administration represents an existential threat to higher education in the state of Florida,” J. Andrew Gothard, the statewide president of the United Faculty of Florida, told The Washington Post.

The legislation already faces a legal challenge.

Republican DeSantis also pushed through legislation he dubbed the “Stop WOKE Act” that regulates what schools, including universities, and workplaces can teach about race and identity,

The legislation – which echoes GOP efforts that went nowhere in the R.I. legislature – already faces a legal challenge.

And Kalus? Has any of this altered – or enhanced - her admiration for the Florida governor viewed as a potential 2024 candidate for president? She's not saying.

Florida is a whole different world from Rhode Island culturally and politically.

On July 4, Florida police arrested a 13-year-old after she used a megaphone during a pro-abortion rights protest.

The child, seen on video draped in an LGBTQ Pride flag as two officers escorted her out of the protest, is being charged with a second-degree misdemeanor for a noise ordinance violation, according to an NBC affiliate in Miami.

According to David Haas, the attorney defending the child, the charges are in relation to Florida's recently enacted noise ordinance law that went into effect July 1. DeSantis signed the law in May.

Kalus had no comment on the incident.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: McKee hits, GOP candidate Kalus deflects punch on her most admired pol, Ron DeSantis