OLATHE — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis worked Sunday to expand his 2024 presidential foundation by traveling to Kansas to headline a rally in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt.
The emergence of DeSantis and other conservatives at Schmidt’s campaign events less than two months before the November election appears to reflect the competitiveness of a contest with Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Schmidt’s strategy could be associated with the insurgent campaign for governor by right-wing Independent Sen. Dennis Pyle, who is expected to strip votes from the GOP nominee.
DeSantis, who emerged on stage after a flashy promotional video, said he was in Kansas to help Schmidt win the race for governor. DeSantis devoted much of his 50-minute speech to his own accomplishments as Governor of Florida and a list of decisions made by President Joe Biden, but peppered those remarks with praise for elements of the campaign platform. by Schmidt.
“Part of the reason I’m here is if you look back over the last few years governors have been more important than ever to peoples freedoms,” he said. “You saw it here in Kansas and they saw it in California and New York and Illinois and all these states where you had left-wing governors locking people up. In Florida, we raised people.
DeSantis said Kelly was in tune with Biden’s agenda, including the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, proclaiming there was “no daylight between them.” Basically, it’s like having Biden as your governor here.
He touched on a campaign talking point favored by Schmidt about Kelly’s veto of two tax bills that included the repeal of the state sales tax on groceries. Subsequently, Kelly advocated for the July 1 elimination of the state’s 6.5% sales tax on groceries. The Republican-led Legislature rejected that idea and approved a bill signed by the governor in 2022 phasing out that regressive state tax over three years.
“When people needed her, she stood on the side of the tax collector rather than the taxpayer,” DeSantis said. “I think you need a governor like Derek Schmidt who is going to put taxpayers first.”
Midway through the speech, to the delight of the audience, DeSantis went deeper into his efforts to shine a light on the influx of immigrants into the United States. He defended his expense of stirring up Florida’s $615,000 tax pot – $12,300 per person – to transport 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. He said people voluntarily boarded both flights. Calls have been made for a federal investigation to determine whether immigrants were misled and the thefts resembled human trafficking.
“They were homeless. They were starving. They were trying to get to places like Florida and things. They were basically given a lottery ticket to get to the richest shrine,” he said to laughter from the crowd. “If you want to support open borders, you have to face the consequences.”
DeSantis spoke of the establishment of Martha’s Vineyard as a sanctuary jurisdiction and the hostility expressed by some in this wealthy enclave after the unexpected arrival of immigrants. The governor said the position of these islanders amounted to “a signal of virtue of self-congratulation”.
He also said immigration was an example of how elites and leftists in the United States wanted to impose an ideology on the nation while making dissidents second-class citizens.
The governor encouraged the public to be culture warriors against the “Waking Mind Virus”, but warned that the stakes were high and the fight would be difficult.
He illustrated this point by attacking Disney, pushing for greater scrutiny of school curricula and library books, demanding that transgender boys be banned from playing sports against girls, and denouncing the government’s “1619 Project.” New York Times regarding US history and racism.
Schmidt welcomes support
Schmidt, who served as Kansas’ attorney general for more than a decade, told more than 1,000 people at the “united and won” rally that DeSantis’ support was welcome. Schmidt also used the event to skim through a critique of Kelly’s work as Kansas general manager.
“My friends, here in Kansas, we’re going to be retiring Laura Kelly in November,” Schmidt said. “We need a Kansas governor who didn’t hurt our kids by rushing to kick them out of school, who won’t be far behind the country in reclaiming the jobs his lockdowns destroyed, who won’t lose never again hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes for unemployment fraud.
Schmidt touted his work as attorney general, including his presence as a legal spine alongside Biden. He pledged to limit state government spending approved by the Kansas Legislature and Kelly. He repeatedly claimed that Kelly was wrong to send students home at the start of the pandemic by ordering the temporary closure of school buildings and requiring classes to be conducted online.
“The truth is Laura Kelly has done more harm to more of our children than any other governor in the history of this state,” Schmidt said.
Democrats join the fray
The Kansas Democratic Party staged a street protest outside the hotel ahead of the Schmidt-DeSantis event that also featured a speech attacking Kelly by U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, a Republican from Kansas.
Emma O’Brien, spokeswoman for the state’s Democratic Party, said Schmidt again sought out-of-state support due to the presence of Pyle, a longtime Republican who threatened to attract Conservative votes that might otherwise go to Schmidt.
Hot on the heels of his former boss, Republican Gov. Bill Graves, throwing his support behind Gov. Kelly, Derek Schmidt rushed to fly into an out-of-state and divisive politician for a ‘unity rally’ in a last-ditch attempt to stop the massive number of Kansas Republicans fleeing his campaign,” O’Brien said.
Kelly modeled her campaign after her successful effort in 2018 in which she promised to cross the political aisle and reverse the budget and policy mistakes of former Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican. Kelly made reference during the campaign to Schmidt’s endorsements for Brownback.
Madison Andrus, a spokeswoman for Kelly’s campaign, said the people who rallied around Schmidt contrasted with the governor’s “bipartisan coalition” and “common sense leadership.”
Pumped up for the rally
A long line formed in the parking lot outside the Embassy Suites hotel in Olathe before Turning Point Action, the Arizona political organization in charge of the event, opened the doors to a conference room more than 700 seats. These chairs filled up and several hundred were left standing in the ballroom.
Olathe residents Linda and Ron Schmidt, who were unrelated to the gubernatorial candidate, said they don’t frequently attend political rallies but want to get a glimpse of the GOP nominee for governor and a potential GOP candidate for president.
“We’re here to support Derek Schmidt and thrilled with the bonus of seeing the next president – DeSantis,” Linda Schmidt said.
Ron Schmidt wore a red cap with the slogan “Make America Great” popularized by Trump. He said the federal government’s deficit spending was causing too much borrowing and contributing to consumer price inflation.
Judah Prince, also of Olathe, said he was a conservative who voted for Kelly four years ago because he feared GOP nominee Kris Kobach was a poor choice for governor. Prince said Kelly has done reasonably well as governor and is prepared to support Kobach’s bid for attorney general.
Along the same lines, Prince said he hopes DeSantis wins the Republican presidential nomination. He said DeSantis had the right values to lead the nation but would be less volatile than Trump. He said Trump made “a lot of reckless decisions.”
Carrie Wallace and Nicole Vannicola, both of Eudora, were among the crowds attending the rally. Wallace said she was intrigued by DeSantis’ remarks that religion should feature more prominently in the political environment.
“I’m very interested in his recent comments about how church and state shouldn’t be separated,” Wallace said.