DeSantis Turns Campaign Events Into Supply Drives As Hurricane Batters Florida’s Panhandle

Oct 10, 2018

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Ron DeSantis was in Jacksonville Wednesday morning for a Hurricane Michael supply drive that was originally billed as a veteran round table campaign event.

“This was obviously supposed be more of a ra-ra veterans rally, but in light of what’s going on we wanted to do what we can to try and help out,” DeSantis said at Wednesday morning’s event in Mandarin.

DeSantis did the same thing with what was originally scheduled to be a rally for military veterans in Tampa Bay on Tuesday and said he would be heading to Orlando for another supply drive Wednesday afternoon. All the supplies collected at these events will be taken “wherever it makes sense after the storm passes.”

DeSantis said he spoke with Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday night. Florida’s current governor who is also a U.S. Senate candidate told DeSantis he was concerned about people who were instructed to evacuate the Panhandle but haven’t done so.

“I’ve asked for prayers for people that they get through this,” said DeSantis. “Then obviously when it’s over we’re going to have to have everyone there to help out.”

Speaking to a crowd of people who had gathered to see him and bring supplies for those affected by Hurricane Michael, DeSantis said now is not the time to talk politics. He wants to focus on the storm and helping people.

But he did take time to speak about Florida’s veterans.

“Northeast Florida is one of the best veterans’ communities in the entire country, not only because we have the active duty footprint, but also for the number of people who leave the military and decide to stay in Northeast Florida,” he said. “I was serving for a time at Mayport Naval Station, right here on our coast, and have gotten to know a lot of people in the community from the military perspective.”

“As a congressman, veterans’ issues have been very, very important to me,” he went on to say. “We’ve worked very hard on PTS treatment for veterans who come back with those emotional scars from war. And you have groups in the Northeast Florida area like K9s for Warriors that have worked to try to solve that problem. We’ve worked in the Congress to get the VA to do a pilot program with these service dogs, because I think that that’s something that can save lives and has saved lives. So, as governor, we’re going to continue to focus on being there for our veterans.”

DeSantis said if he’s elected governor in November, he plans to emulate Rick Scott when it comes to hurricane response.

“I think Governor Scott has done a really good job managing these hurricanes. I think he’d be a model that I’d follow,” he said. “That would be somebody that I obviously will want to sit down and talk with and trade notes with a lot before taking office.”

He also pointed to his time in Congress when Hurricane Matthew hit his district.

“When Matthew came through, what we did was we got on the scene immediately,” DeSantis said. “I did the Disaster Recovery Center so that all the agencies, both state and federal, would be there so people could go and navigate and then we helped process a bunch of claims. And we did that because, you know, in other storms in other parts of the country there were problems when that had happened. So we tried to learn from that and address it.”

Meanwhile, DeSantis’ Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, is back in that city to help prepare as Hurricane Michael approaches Northeast Florida.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.