by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Olivia Reingold writes for the Free Press about Democrats willing to cast their ballots for Florida’s Republican governor.
When I ask who she voted for, a grin appears. “DUH-SAN-TIS,” she mouths.
“Why DeSantis?” I shout.
Williams is a black woman who looks to be pushing forty. She has a fiancé and, after two slow years, a job. It was her brother, she says, who made her rethink her politics.
Finally, she shouts back, over the bar, through the din: “Money.”
Williams is one of the DeSantis Democrats: Florida voters who, until recently, identified as Democrats but in November opted to reelect Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis—he who resisted the Covid lockdowns, tangled with Disney, and governed with a record budget surplus — in a landslide.
It’s unclear how many DeSantis Democrats there are: DeSantis’ vote count jumped from roughly 4 million in 2018 to 4.6 million in 2022. Lots of those voters are presumably independents or Republicans who didn’t vote last time.
But some are disaffected Democrats alienated from the party they once belonged to. That’s evident from the longtime Democratic strongholds that DeSantis flipped, including Hillsborough, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade, where DeSantis skyrocketed from a 21-point loss in 2018 to an 11-point win in 2022—a net gain of more than 30 percentage points.
Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner says he identifies as a DeSantis Democrat, “and I can tell you I’m not the only one.”
“As I traveled around the state and throughout my county over the past several years, at first it was quiet, you know, ‘This governor is doing a great job’—and this is amongst my Democratic colleagues,” he told me. “Then I started hearing it more and hearing it more. And then I saw my own county—which has been majority blue throughout probably its entire history—we saw more people vote for the Republican candidate over the Democratic candidate.”