SARASOTA, FLORIDA — Just like many of his constituents, it seems like Gavin Newsom wants to escape his state. The California governor made a surprise visit to the Sunshine State on Wednesday where he met with students of The New College of Florida, a public liberal arts college in Sarasota that Newsom described as “a symbolic battleground for right-wing culture wars.”
The California governor’s visit comes following months of protests at the university aimed at Governor DeSantis’ appointment of conservative trustees to the school’s board.
According to an article in USA Today, however, Governor Newsom’s Florida stop was a “last minute add-on” to the trip he was already taking through Republican-controlled states, a move many believe to be indicative of a 2024 presidential run.
In a speech delivered to a handful of students and faculty at a library across from New College, Newsom condemned DeSantis for what he called his “higher education experiment” and “zest for demonization.”
“I’m crawling out of my skin for you. I want you to know you’re not alone, you matter. He [DeSantis] has one thing he has in common with everything he’s doing – bullying and intimidating vulnerable communities,” the California governor said.
Newsom spent the majority of his speech criticizing DeSantis’ other initiatives, including flying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard to “banning books” and “getting rid of African American history.”
“Ron DeSantis is a weakness masquerading as strength,” Newsom said. “So I want you to know you’re on the right side of history. You have something he’ll never have: moral authority.”
“CAMPAIGN FOR DEMOCRACY” PAC
Newsom’s stop in Florida was part of his “red state tour”, designed to promote his “Campaign for Democracy” PAC, which he claims is “designed to combat authoritarian leaders” and boost Democrat gubernatorial candidates in red states.
In a video released last week announcing the PAC, Newsom said that it was being used to stop the “authoritarian leaders” of red states who "criminalize doctors," "intimidate librarians,” “kidnap migrants," "target trans kids," "stoke racism,” and "condone antisemitism.”
“The problem in our country right now: authoritarian leaders who are so hell-bent on gaining power and keeping it by whatever means necessary that they’re directly attacking our freedoms state after state,” Newsom said. “We’re going to these states and investing in people and organizing where they’re fighting back.”
BREAKING HIS OWN RULES
Ironically, Newsom’s travel plans violated his very own political ban on state-sponsored and state-funded travel to 23 GOP-run states.
Earlier in the year, California announced that it was enacting a ban on state-funded travel to states that had passed "anti-LGBTQ legislation.” That would make Newsom’s visit to Florida - and the other five GOP-run states on his tour – in violation of his very own travel ban.
When pressed for comment, Newsom’s spokesperson Anthony York told the Washington Free Beacon that “the governor's trip had nothing to do with a state Democrat’s attempt to repeal the law and that ‘no state paid staff will be on his trip.’”
IT’S A “PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR”
However, it’s difficult to turn a blind eye to the fact that Newsom has pulled similar stunts in the past. For instance, in 2020, during the height of the pandemic, he violated his own draconian lockdowns to attend a friend’s birthday party at French Laundry, one of the country’s most expensive restaurants located in Napa, California.
Governor DeSantis’ press secretary, Bryan Griffin, pointed out the hypocrisy of Newsom’s visit: "It’s interesting that the state of California has banned its employees from visiting Florida, but Governor Newsom traveled here anyway for his stunt. He seems to exhibit a pattern of behavior like this,” Griffin said in a statement.
He added: “Governor DeSantis is focused on getting Florida's public institutions of higher learning refocused on academics and truth. Stunts from political opponents don't matter and have no effect.”
New College Interim President Richard Corcoran piggy-backed on Griffin’s comments, citing the irony of Newsom visiting Florida and criticizing DeSantis when there’s a mass exodus of Californians from the state.
“Governor Newsom should spend more time worrying about cleaning up California's disastrous economy and their crime-filled streets, instead of traveling to Florida for political grandstanding. The exit rate from California to Florida is, unsurprisingly, at an all-time high, thanks to Florida’s quality of living. And, when we achieve our goal of being the No. 1 classical liberal arts college in the country, Governor Newsom is welcome to come back and see how it’s done,” Corcoran told The Florida Standard.