Tapped by, get pic with DeSantis, Crist? So what. How can you serve community? | Opinion

·6 min read

This column has been amended to correct the status of Media Arts Group and the spelling of a candidate's name.

Some people I know think Ron DeSantis is America’s best governor and think he should be our next president.

I’m not ready to anoint him.

I’ll give him this: DeSantis is the best campaigner I’ve ever seen. After he barely defeated Andrew Gillum, the no-name, substance-abusing, accused criminal in the 2018 election, DeSantis set out to make sure he’d never have such a close race again.

The governor has crisscrossed the state the past four years distributing money like a liberal to communities, proclaiming Florida a "free" state, and appearing on conservative media. He has raised money for his campaign and to support others at a record-setting pace.

He’s even trying to influence local nonpartisan elections, endorsing some school board candidates who filled out an online questionnaire. A DeSantis web page cites his "statewide agenda" for candidates "committed" to “advancing” those policies.

This image was posted online by an organization called the 1776 Project PAC after Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsed school board candidates including Duval County School Board District 6 member Charlotte Joyce and District 2 challenger April Carney.
This image was posted online by an organization called the 1776 Project PAC after Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsed school board candidates including Duval County School Board District 6 member Charlotte Joyce and District 2 challenger April Carney.

Commit to DeSantis over community?

That's a little scary. Even if you agree with his agenda, wouldn’t we rather have candidates who commit to serving our children and local taxpayers/communities first, rather than the governor? This isn’t some banana republic or socialist or fascist state, right?

Even Charlie Crist, a Democrat running for governor, has gotten into the mix, endorsing local school board candidates, including Indian River County's Cynthia Gibbs. The campaign asked if she'd be interested in an endorsement from the former GOP governor, who she met in passing, she said.

The last I saw, DeSantis had “endorsed” only two Treasure Coast school board candidates: incumbent Jackie Rosario in Indian River County and Jennifer Russell in Martin County.

They seem to be nice people, but in their races, neither is the best candidate, based on research and interviews done by the editorial board of Treasure Coast Newspapers (I’m a member) and TCPalm.

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Our board reviews candidates based on their resumes, record and past service to the community, among other apolitical things.

Rosario has been a lightning rod for controversy in her three-plus years as a school board member. At least two other candidates in her race, including Gibbs, are better qualified, our board opined.

Russell, a home-school mother, is a former assistant administrator of a private Christian school from Virginia who registered to vote in Martin County on Oct. 26, 2021. Her opponent is an economist with a master’s degree who was educated in Martin schools.

Fliers help tell story

Committing to the governor's policies and getting your picture taken with him isn’t enough to persuade me.

DeSantis has offered something for almost everyone, unless you’re part of what he calls the “woke” crowd.

Is it any wonder candidates like Rosario and Russell — running in nonpartisan races — and others want to take advantage of some of DeSantis' star power?

As of mid-week, my household had received 33 political fliers — 15 of which contained images of the governor.

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This mailer supporting Sarasota County School Board candidates Tim Enos, Bridget Ziegler and Robyn Marinelli was paid for by Gov. Ron DeSantis' political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis.
This mailer supporting Sarasota County School Board candidates Tim Enos, Bridget Ziegler and Robyn Marinelli was paid for by Gov. Ron DeSantis' political committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis.

Most unusual messages

Four fliers backed Rosario, including two from the Friends of Ron DeSantis, who put her image on a template used elsewhere in the state. It included pictures of the governor with his family and standard talking points.

The most potentially misleading one, approved by candidates Rosario and fellow school board candidate Thomas Kenny, touts them with a picture of DeSantis over Rosario, citing his endorsement.

The flier includes the name “Media Arts Group,” an entity operated by controversial Vero Beach political operative Charlie Wilson, and its post office box. Wilson said in an email the flier was sent "using my printing company bulk rate permit."

I also came across an unprofessional DeSantis-Rosario endorsement advertisement in the August Vero Beach Flash calendar, a small, color publication available free in the community. The ad, which says it’s approved by Rosario, includes a quote, supposedly from the governor. The quote contains a grammatical error and spelling miscue I emphasized below in italics:

“ … Will ensure our students succeed protect portal rights in education and combat …”

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This quote and suggestion it is from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is excerpted from an ad seen in the Vero Beach Flash. The ad said it was paid for and approved by Jacqueline Rosario, an Indian River County School Board candidate in 2022.
This quote and suggestion it is from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is excerpted from an ad seen in the Vero Beach Flash. The ad said it was paid for and approved by Jacqueline Rosario, an Indian River County School Board candidate in 2022.

Florida House hopefuls pose

Meantime, state House District 34 candidates Robbie Brackett (four) and Karen Hiltz (three) sent the most fliers with DeSantis’ image in it.

Brackett’s were the most irrelevant, almost making it look like he was being used by the Republican Party to support DeSantis in November and in a potential 2024 run vs. Joe Biden.

One, featuring images of pumps showing gasoline at more than $6 a gallon and pictures of Biden, says Brackett will “fight to reverse Joe Biden’s destructive influence on our economy. … We have to change leadership in Washington and support state leaders, like Gov. DeSantis … ”

I’m not sure how a state representative can legally help change leadership in Washington, but …

To me, Brackett has accomplished enough in this community to tout his own successes and contributions, not get sucked into political theater.

(Kudos to Joe Flescher and Tom Lowther, running for Indian River County commissioner, who stuck to emphasizing what they've done in and for this community over the years. Lowther even included his longtime personal cellphone number on the flier.)

And this just into my email box: a press release from Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for governor, saying she had a "MAJOR ENDORSMENT:" It came from Gary Blair, the mayor of Orange City.

C'mon.

Should any of us care who endorses whom — regardless of the party, group, etc.?

Our editorial board has stopped “endorsing” candidates. We merely offer a recommendation for readers who have told us they are looking for an objective analysis.

And our recommendation interviews with candidates are available online — for all to see and judge. You can find them with the recommendations at tinyurl.com/TCPrecs2022. We’re not seeking commitments behind closed doors.

As voters, should we care whether anyone gets their picture taken with the governor, or any other celebrity? It’s nice, but should that affect our votes?

Laurence Reisman
Laurence Reisman

In other words, am I qualified to be dog catcher just because I get my picture taken next to Cesar Millan, the “dog whisperer?”

Should you elect me to the U.S. Senate because I won three Heisman trophies and starred at the University of Florida (or Georgia, for that matter)? What if a past U.S. president endorses me?

Would you vote for me to represent the Treasure Coast just because I had had my pictures taken with Alma Lee Loy, Maggy Hurchalla and/or Bud Adams? (I didn't.)

I hope not.

I’m sorry if you watch CNN, Fox or any other commentary-entertainment source masquerading as objective news. Don’t let these networks and the nation’s two major political parties control your mind, or your vote.

I hope — instead of voting randomly or acting as a follower or sheep — you'll act like a real patriot. Take time — a few minutes, maybe an hour — and do some research before you vote.

This column reflects the opinion of Laurence Reisman. Contact him via email at larry.reisman@tcpalm.com, phone at 772-978-2223, Facebook.com/larryreisman or Twitter @LaurenceReisman

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Got picture with, endorsed by DeSantis, Crist? So what? | Opinion